Raclin Murphy Museum of Art set to open on Notre Dame's campus
A familiar painting in Notre Dame lore hangs on the second floor of the open-aired atrium of the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art as it prepares to welcome visitors.
Former university president William Corby holds his hand out to the throngs of Union soldiers seeking a blessing before battle in the painting “Absolution Under Fire” by Paul Henry Wood.
The work had previously hung in the Snite Museum, but now it graces the Raclin as the artistic viewing experience on campus, and the region, gets an upgrade.
“This is something that basically gives us the opportunity to move through the next generations, to welcome people not just on campus, but off-campus,” said the museum’s director Joseph Becherer. “Thinking of this as not as a completion but as the beginning is quite significant.”
The museum cost $66 million to complete, most of which was donated by the late Ernestine Raclin and her family. The new 70,000-foot museum features over 20 exhibit galleries and is situated on the southern end of Notre Dame’s campus, just across from Eddy Street. That location will make the museum more accessible, Becherer said, and it also meshes well with the existing sculpture park there.
“Everyone is celebrating that we built a 70,00-square-foot museum, but the reality of the situation is we’re building a nine-acre museum. The way the inside and outside talk to each other is intended and it’s intended to be important,” said Becherer.
The Snite formally closed its doors in April and in the past few months, museum staff have been meticulously going over their collections and cataloging items and restoring a few that need some restoration work.
Though the Raclin will feature many of the same works as the Snite, the new space allows the university’s staff to insert pieces that haven’t been on display in the past, hopefully creating a fresher experience. Of the university’s 31,000 pieces, only about 1,000 are able to be displayed at any one time.
“There are some things that will seem very fresh. The whole experience will seem new even to those that were longtime goers to the Snite,” Becherer said.
In thinking about new displays, Becherer said the feedback staff received was for more contemporary art. So, along with classics like “Absolution Under Fire” and “The Roll Call of the Last Victims of the Reign of Terror,” the Raclin boats new pieces from more modern artists.
Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., has a piece in the new gallery — a work in recycled silver depicting the St. Joseph River.
Becherer also highlighted work by Pokagon artists Christine Rapp-Morseau and Jason Wesaw and Italian architect Mimmo Paladino that will be on display.
“The opportunity to really commune with the larger history of art, the opportunity to really think about the artists that contribute to the next chapter in the history of art, are there,” Becherer said.
For the time being, the Raclin museum will remain focused on displaying works to the public, while much of the museum’s back office space remains in the Snite. Eventually, the Raclin will be expanded to add those spaces as well.
For the museum’s opening weekend, a series of festivities are planned with a DJ and cash bar set for Friday and performances from musical groups throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday.