We are particularly susceptible to getting caught up in the multitude of activities and responsibilities that come with being involved and engaged students at Boston College. However, in the midst of this frenzied reality are things existing around us that often go unnoticed. One of those things is a peaceful, hidden gem—The McMullen Museum of Art, BC’s museum, which currently resides on the first floor of Devlin Hall.
The rich and compelling history of museums at BC dates back to a 17th century Roman Jesuit polymath and alchemist, Athanasius Kircher, from whom our mid-19th century, Jesuit-founding fathers drew much inspiration, as he “shaped the scholarly inquiry of the Jesuits for centuries.” Kircher also established his own museum in Rome, and his dedicated work and doctrines helped shape what would embody our university’s theological and philosophical emphasis in our educational core curriculum.
In fact, inside the finely established building that hosts many of our classes and is the star of the ever prominent #gassongram, on the walls in the Gasson Hall Rotunda hangs a portrait of Kircher himself, painted by one of his Jesuit brothers in 1913.
This helped to inspire BC’s very first Natural History and Science Museum, founded in 1925. In 1940, an Anthropological Museum replaced it, hosting transported crates of Colombian excavation trinkets, which included mummified bodies, pottery, and sculptures.
In an effort to “present and disseminate a new generation of knowledge,” the McMullen Museum was founded and opened in its current space in 1993. Since then, the museum has housed over 50 exhibitions, compiled by research teams made up of scholars and faculty worldwide.
“These were small, humble beginnings,” says McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “No one ever did this before, so it was pretty exciting to bring things into the museum.”
The museum’s current exhibition, The Arts and Crafts Movement: Making it Irish, will be the last exhibition to reside within the confines of Devlin Hall. The McMullen Museum is being transplanted to a brand-new, ultra-spacious location on Brighton Campus.
2101 Commonwealth Avenue will be the museum’s new home, dwelling in the very location that was once the residence of Boston’s Cardinal Archbishop. Opening September 2016, this new location can hold three times Devlin's capacity for exhibitions and is almost ten times as large, enabling the museum to host large receptions and provide other various amenities, including parking space, which will make it a “more public and functional facility,” says Netzer
One of these amenities includes a roof terrace on the top floor of the museum so that “we too can enjoy the former Cardinal’s spectacular views of downtown Boston,” adds Netzer.
This new location will allow the museum to continue to expand its reputation both locally and on a global stage. But what is perhaps even more exciting is the variety of opportunities it opens for student involvement, a driving force behind the reopening museum’s mission.
The new space will allow for more student interns and job opportunities, collaborative faculty-student research, ambassador program leaders to organize student events, an atrium for music and arts groups to perform, and will even have some evenings open especially for students, making this new advancement an additional social space for student engagement.
Recognizing its well-deserved acclaim as what is arguably one of the finest academic museums in New England, the McMullen Museum holds exciting prospects for visitors, students, and faculty in being a multi-functional space for beautiful art and social functions.
As Netzer concluded, “When the McMullen opens its doors this September, it will not be on the verge of becoming a radically different museum; rather it will be more accessible and better equipped to carry out its mission of expanding the parameters of discipline and continuing the legacy of Kircher’s museum to stimulate wonder and display the university status, research mission, and global reach.”
To learn more about the museum, you can visit its website, or stop by from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or 12 p.m.-5 p.m. on weekends.