Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed June 1, 1999
Contact: Mark Nickel

A new museum for Brown

Haffenreffer collections will move to Brown's main campus in Providence

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, which was to move from its current campus in Bristol, R.I., to the Old Stone Bank building in Providence, will move instead to a new museum planned for Brown University's main campus. Brown is considering new public and educational uses for the Old Stone Bank building, which it acquired in 1995.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University's Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, which was to have moved from its campus in Bristol, R.I., to the Old Stone Bank building in Providence, will move instead to the University's main campus, where its collections will become the cornerstone of a new museum. The change of plans addresses several site-related constraints with the Old Stone building and highlights a significant new opportunity for the University's faculty and students, the Haffenreffer Museum and the general public.

"Brown is determined to bring the Haffenreffer collections to Providence, where they will be more readily accessible to the University community and the general public, particularly to Rhode Island schoolchildren," said Brown President E. Gordon Gee. "We now have the exciting prospect of a major new museum on the main campus with the Haffenreffer as its cornerstone collection. This is clearly the best way to bring the extraordinary resources of the Haffenreffer collections to Providence."

The University is reviewing sites for the new museum and has secured funding commitments that will allow planning for the project to proceed rapidly. In addition to housing the Haffenreffer collections, the museum will allow the University to display works of art and archaeological objects from its other collections and to receive gifts from collectors which it must now decline because of inadequate storage and display space.

"The new museum will support enhancements to the University's program in museum studies and will provide faculty and students with an important new resource for scholarship," said William Simmons, Brown's executive vice president and provost. "In recent weeks, as the University explored the potential change of plans with trustees, faculty and administrators, it became clear that the Old Stone site would not work well for the Haffenreffer collections. It also became clear that faculty and students could make far more effective use of a museum that housed additional collections from other areas." Simmons, who also has a Brown faculty appointment in anthropology, once served as summer director of the Haffenreffer Museum.

Adapting the Old Stone Bank building, which the University acquired in 1995, as a permanent home for the Haffenreffer Museum's collections and activities would have required extensive renovation of the historic structure as well as significant new construction, including a multistory addition, Simmons said. The University remains committed to using the Old Stone site for a public or educational purpose. One possibility under consideration would be to use the adjacent Benoni Cooke House as headquarters for the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and to use the gold-domed bank building for a variety of public educational activities.