From the Archives

Case Studies

Freer's "Book of Suggestions" contains sketches that inspired his thoughts on exhibition design and casework.

Freer’s “Book of Suggestions” contains sketches that inspired his thoughts on exhibition design and casework.

Talented carpenters, craftspeople, and exhibits specialists have been making our frames, cases, and vitrines ever since the Freer Gallery of Art opened to the public in 1923. Museum founder Charles Lang Freer took an interest in all aspects of displaying his art, from lighting to the proper way to make a case for ceramics. When the museum was still in the planning stages and Freer was looking for ideas as well as inspiration, he asked his assistant, Katharine Rhoades, to keep a notebook he titled “Book of Suggestions.” In it, Rhoades noted Freer’s ideas for exhibition cases and drew sketches of carpentry work he admired in other museums. At New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1918, for example, he took an interest in ways to display Syrian Rakka ware and mounts for bowls.

This attention to detail continues today throughout the Freer|Sackler (take a look courtesy of Google Art Project!). Cases protect the works, ensure their safety, and provide visitors the opportunity to get up close with rare works of art.

Come visit soon! While the Freer Gallery will close its doors on January 4, 2016, for renovation, the Sackler will remain open. Our fully digitized collections are always on view at Open F|S.

Howard Kaplan

Howard Kaplan

Howard Kaplan is museum writer at Freer|Sackler.