Construction for the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum building reached a milestone when it “topped out,” or reached its highest point, this winter—and the project continues to develop as GW prepares to unveil its newest art space this fall.
The six-story structure on the corner of 21st and G streets is being custom-built for the new museum. In addition, the nearly 160-year-old Woodhull House is undergoing renovations to serve as the permanent home for the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection. Between the Woodhull House and the new building, the museum will have nearly 53,000 square feet to share with the D.C. community.
“The new museum brings collections of global importance to the GW campus and provides a public place for scholarship, cultural programming and museum education,” Director of the George Washington Museum and The Textile Museum John Wetenhall said.
Provost Steven Lerman said that the museum will facilitate interdisciplinary initiatives and help make learning come alive for students.
“The museum will enable students and faculty from a variety of disciplines to make connections that become most apparent when working with historical and artistic artifacts,” he said.
The new building will provide state-of-the-art gallery space for the GW collections—including the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection— as well as The Textile Museum. The new museum building will also accommodate an activity center, the Myers Multipurpose Room, the Arthur D. Jenkins Library of Textile Arts and office space for museum staff.
A stunning elliptical staircase will curve down the museum’s ground floors and connect gallery areas, several of which have ceilings that extend to almost 14 feet in height. On the second floor, a bridge gallery will link the main building to the Woodhull House, which boasts three galleries, a seminar room, and a library and reading room.
The university is adding a climate-controlled, 22,000-square-foot facility on its Virginia Science and Technology Campus, in which collections will be stored and cared for in an environment that meets the most stringent professional standards for conservation activities.
“The magnificent new exhibition galleries will enhance rich museum programs—extending GW’s connections with local, national and international audiences for art, scholarship, education and an advancement of cultural understanding,” said Bruce Baganz, president of The Textile Museum’s board of trustees. “Beyond the exhibitions and public programs, The Textile Museum’s world-recognized collection will have the highest standard of care with enhanced access to scholars, students and connoisseurs at the new conservation and collections resource center.”
The construction project has been designed with precision and care to protect the precious artifacts that will be exhibited inside. Sprinkler systems were designed to keep water away from gallery areas and large freight elevators make it possible to move delicate pieces from floor to floor. The lowest level holds mechanical equipment and air filtration systems that keep the building environment at climates appropriate for antiquities.
Dr. Wetenhall added that the project has already yielded opportunities for members of the GW community and The Textile Museum to work together across disciplines.
“Faculty teams have organized the first two Washingtoniana exhibitions, student interns are preparing textile collections for the move and Textile Museum experts are contributing to GW courses. The collaboration is exceptional,” Dr. Wetenhall said.