Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Harvard Art Museums courtyard in Cambridge. (Photo: Caitlin Cunningham)

The Harvard Art Museums became free for all visitors on Friday in what administrators called “a significant expansion” of public access to the collections, exhibitions and research in a Friday press release. The museums are open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays except major holidays, as well as during monthly Harvard Art Museums at Night programs on the last Thursday evening of each month.

The access is paid for from the Estate of David Rockefeller and support from the Office of the President at Harvard University.

“Art is for everyone, and the Harvard Art Museums will now be free to all visitors,” said Lawrence S. Bacow, president of Harvard University, in the release. “This initiative ensures that every visitor to our campus will now have the opportunity to view and engage with the phenomenal collections in our care.”

The museums have been free to the Harvard community, students from all universities and colleges worldwide, youth under 18, Cambridge residents, Massachusetts residents on Saturday mornings and many others, administrators noted. Over the past 18 months, two initiatives from the museums offered even more free access: Sundays became free for all as of September 2021; and the Harvard Art Museums at Night program, as of April 2022. Each draw as many as 2,000 people weekly.

The museums saw dramatic increases in visitors in 2022 and 2023 as a result of the Sunday and Thursday evening initiatives, according to Harvard data – up an average 20 percent per month, with a 40 percent increase in August 2022. “This growth has been sustained in the first half of 2023, with a 90 percent visitation increase in January and the highest-ever monthly visitation in April,” administrators said.

The Harvard Art Museums include the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger and Arthur M. Sackler museums and four research centers with a total 255,000 objects. They opened under one roof Nov. 16, 2014, after a $350 million renovation and expansion that began in 2008.