• Lawrence Hall was never intended to be an art museum; in fact, the 1846 building’s Weston Rotunda was the site of Williams College’s first library. Subsequent expansions in the 1920s and 1930s added classrooms and gallery space. In the 1980s a major expansion designed by architect Charles Moore was added. Currently, the museum occupies the third and fourth floors of Lawrence Hall with Art Department and WCMA offices, classrooms, and an auditorium on the first and second levels.

    Plans for a new museum building have been many years in the making and are rooted in the college’s commitment to placing learning with objects at the center of a liberal arts education, and its vision for WCMA to grow and thrive as a leader and innovator among college art museums. The decision to move forward now is driven by practical and pressing needs related to the care and display of a global collection as well as to the care of our visiting public and campus audiences through greater accessibility and other accommodations not possible in the current facilities.

  • The museum will be built on the former site of the Williams Inn, at the intersection of Routes 2 and 7 in Williamstown. The former inn building was demolished in the summer of 2020.

    While the site had been determined in late 2019, college and museum leadership used the ensuing 22-month period to conduct an extensive building programming study in consultation with architecture firm Deborah Berke Partners of New York, NY. The delays precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic afforded a rare opportunity to delve deeper into the potential programming opportunities not just for a new museum building but also for Lawrence Hall—an historic campus building where the museum has resided since its founding in 1926—in line with the college’s strategic plan for the arts across campus.

  • The building project will proceed on a timeline aligning with WCMA’s centennial year of 2026-27.

  • The new museum will be a space designed with students in mind, fostering a sense of belonging for campus members and the wider community, and an inclusive experience for all visitors. The building will offer substantial gallery space for showing more of the 15,000 works in the museum’s collection, as well as facilities for easy access to collections for student, faculty, and visiting scholar requests. It will also feature more object study classrooms, accommodating an enthusiasm for teaching and learning with objects that currently exceeds the capacity of the museum’s Rose Study Gallery. Sustainability will be a driving force in all of the design and operations decisions, as will a desire to reflect and respond to the natural beauty of the landscape in the architecture of both the interior and exterior museum spaces.

  • The college has not determined the specifics on how it will repurpose Lawrence after the move, but the art history wing of the art department will continue to reside in the building. Many ideas are under consideration, in line with the college’s strategic plan for the arts. For example, Lawrence Hall may become an interdisciplinary arts space.

  • No. WCMA will remain open to the public throughout the building project. We will continue to mount exhibitions and display the collection in Lawrence Hall while the new building is under construction.. Once the new building is completed we will begin installing art there, but we will continue to offer art on view and campus and community engagement opportunities right up until the grand opening of the new museum.