You are here

McKim Building Restoration

The McKim Building Reopens Read more »

Beginning in June 2010, The Morgan Library & Museum's iconic McKim building, constructed more than a hundred years ago underwent the most extensive restoration of its interior spaces in its history. Providing new and expanded exhibition space for the institution, the project enabled the Morgan to share with the public more treasures from its world-renowned permanent collection. The building, designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White, was once the private study and library of financier Pierpont Morgan. It is considered one of New York's great architectural treasures, and its interiors are regarded as some of the most beautiful in America. The building reopened October 30, 2010.

Following the Morgan's successful 2006 expansion by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, which was the largest in the institution's history, the $4.5 million refurbishment of the 1906 McKim building's majestic interiors restored and refreshed the historic center of the institution. The project encompassed all of the McKim rooms and exhibition spaces. Key components included installation of new lighting throughout the building to better illuminate its extraordinary murals and décor, restoration of the opening of the North Roomso that it could be opened to visitors for the first time, installation of new exhibition cases to house rotating displays of masterpieces from the Morgan's collections, restoration of period furniture and fixtures, and cleaning of the walls and applied ornamentation.

Room by Room Summary

Photo of Library (eastroom)

Change view: After  |  Before
Photography by Graham Haber.

Library (East Room)
Pierpont Morgan's stunning, multi-tiered library, also known as the East Room, was equipped with a state-of-the-art, yet subtle new lighting system. A late-nineteenth-century Persian rug of the type originally in the room was installed. New display cases exhibit some of the Morgan's most valued objects from its medieval holdings and its renowned collections of rare books and literary, historical, and music manuscripts.

The revamped lighting allows visitors to fully appreciate the splendor of the library's decorative ceiling, which is the work of noted muralist Henry Siddons Mowbray (1858–1928), as well as the room's grand fireplace and the sixteenth-century tapestry that constitute its focal points.

The inlaid walnut bookshelves that contain Morgan's collection of rare books was enhanced with non-reflective acrylic allowing visitors to better identify individual titles and to appreciate the beauty of the exquisite bindings.

The original pendant chandelier, preserved since its removal about seventy years ago, was restored and re-hung at the entrance to the library, and seating was installed to allow visitors to spend more time contemplating this extraordinary room.

Photo of study (westroom)

Change view: After  |  Before
Photography by Graham Haber.

Study (West Room)
The Study, or West Room, was enriched by a more substantive display of works from the collection that surrounded Pierpont Morgan in the early 1900s when he used the room for personal business, as well as with objects that have been acquired since.

Additional works of sculpture were placed on the low bookshelves lining the perimeter of the room and the lush, velvet-covered furnishings were painstakingly reupholstered to evoke the atmosphere of the original study.

Another change has been to allow visitors to look into the vault that Morgan had built to house his favorite objects. A curtain shrouding the entrance was removed, new lighting fixtures have been installed, and the shelves of the vault have been filled with original storage boxes as well as books and small works of art.

Photo of Northroom

Change view: After  |  Before
Photography by Graham Haber.

North Room
The North Room, the office of the Morgan's first director, Belle da Costa Greene, was transformed to display some of the earliest works in the Morgan's collection, including objects from the ancient Near East, Egypt, Rome, and Greece, as well as artifacts from the early medieval period.

Bookshelves along the perimeter of the room were converted to well-lit cases to exhibit these early items, which include a selection of the ancient Near Eastern seals collected by Pierpont Morgan. The installation also includes jeweled and metalwork objects dating from the second to the tenth centuries that from the collection of Morgan Trustee Eugene V. Thaw and his wife, Clare, as well as an eleventh-century jeweled book binding. The room now houses a number of freestanding cases for additional objects as well.

The original chandeliers, removed two generations ago, were refinished and reinstalled, allowing full appreciation of the recently cleaned ceiling and upper tier of bookcases. Also, two Egyptian basalt votive figures on new pedestals now flank the room's fireplace.

Photo of Rotunda

Change view: After  |  Before
Photography by Graham Haber.

The marble surfaces and mosaic panels that are signature features of the McKim Rotunda were cleaned. New lighting simulates the natural light that originally came through the oculus and enhances the Mowbray-decorated apse, ceiling, and lunettes that depict figures from classical antiquity and the great literary epochs of the past.

The space was also enriched with new display cases housing some of the Morgan's collection of Americana, including letters by Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, a life mask of George Washington, and copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Star-Spangled Banner.