Saturday, April 20, 2024

Muscarelle Museum reopens as staff prepares for new facility

After being closed for nearly a year, the Muscarelle Museum will reopen on Friday. (WYDaily/Courtesy Muscarelle Museum)
After being closed for nearly a year, the Muscarelle Museum will reopen on Friday. (WYDaily/Courtesy Muscarelle Museum)

In 2002, David Brashear sent his first memo about the future of the Muscarelle Museum facility.

After 17 years, Brashear, now the museum’s interim director, is leading the next step in that direction.

“It’s been really gratifying to be at the place we are right now, after over a decade of work trying to move ourselves in this direction,” he said. “Ultimately when we get this new facility, it will be a credit to the university and a wonderful addition to the community.”

Related story: De Groft to step down as Muscarelle director at end of year

The museum has been closed since May 2018 as the staff began preparing the 6,000 collection items for storage in anticipation for the facility changes.

David Brashear, interim director for the museum, has been advocating for updates to the museum facility for nearly two decades. (WYDaily/Courtesy of W&M)
David Brashear, interim director for the museum, has been advocating for updates to the museum facility for nearly two decades. (WYDaily/Courtesy of W&M)

Originally, there were a few options for how the building would be updated, said Melissa Parris, head of collections and exhibitions management for the museum, but Brashear said it has been decided that an entirely new structure will be built on its current location.

That process will require more money than originally anticipated, however. On the William & Mary website, the project, which is now named the Martha Wren Briggs Center for Visual Arts, was estimated to cost $40 million. Brashear said there isn’t an exact updated estimate on how much the project will cost now, but they know it will be more than originally anticipated.

In order to provide the funds for that, the museum will be looking at a number of different fundraising opportunities. For the time being, officials decided to re-open the museum beginning Friday.

Related story: William & Mary’s Phi Beta Kappa Hall, Muscarelle Museum to close for renovations

“We just need to complete the fundraising for the project and we thought we might as well be open,” Brashear said. “More importantly, it allows the university and broader community at large to have a museum at their disposal and the opportunity for that experience.”

The museum is expected to be open for the next 12 to 18 months as final decisions on the facility are made.

When deciding on design, Brashear said functionality will be the most important consideration.

“We are in design mode,” he said. “We have been focusing on getting the spaces right and so what we want to do is design this building the way it should be designed—figure out how it will function on the inside and then consider how it will look on the outside.”

Parris said one of the main reasons for needing the new facility is the lack of space. The original building was built in two parts in the 1980s and since then, Parris said the museum’s collection has tripled.

Related story: Arts Quarter taking shape as architect is announced for Muscarelle expansion

Staff are hoping the new building will have a number of aspects added in addition to proper housing for the collection, such as a larger auditorium, more educational spaces, and more offices space.

Until then, the museum will operate under its current housing. While much of the collection has been prepared for storage, Parris said visitors will get to see items that are works on paper, such as prints, drawings and collages.

The staff will continue to wrap and organize the 6,000-piece collection over the next year, but Brashear said it will be done in mind with future programming. Items that could be useful for events that will both draw in guests and promote fundraising opportunities are taken into consideration before being taken to storage.

While there is still a long way to go in the process, Brashear said reopening and allowing for more community interaction will help propel the museum from dream to reality.

“We are on a really good path right now,” he said. “In about three to four months, we will be excited to share a really strong snapshot of what [the museum] will look like.”

The Muscarelle Museum will open to visitors on Friday. To check open times, visit the museum online.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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