Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Cambridge

Entrance to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Photo by Ariela Rudy Zaltzman

A place where art, history, architecture, literature and badass women come together. I can’t think of a better way of spending a Sunday morning. The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum brings together all of these elements in a beautiful and inspiring venue located at 25 Evans Way in Boston, MA.

What to Expect From the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The museum is Mrs. Gardner’s legacy, a house built at her request to exhibit the many (and I do mean many) historical and artistic pieces that she acquired throughout her lifetime. A culture enthusiast, Mrs. Gardner traveled across the world with her husband Mr. John L. Gardner, purchasing paintings, sculptures, and artifacts that are now all on display.

Also exhibited at the museum are the many portraits, paintings, handwritten letters, and books given to her personally by famous artists and writers.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard. Photo by Ariela Rudy Zaltzman

In addition to the permanent exhibits, there are also showcases of works by artists in residence. These artists are selected to live for a month at the museum’s apartments and work at the studio, gathering inspiration from their surroundings.

During my visit, the works of Charmaine Wheatley were on display and were my personal favorite. Her work with watercolors superimposed by handwritten commentaries on postcards is as beautiful as it is quirky. It is definitely something very different that adds a special touch to the museum.

Another thing that I found to be especially unique at the Gardner Museum is it’s combination of art and history. Although undeniably the two of them always go hand in hand, it is rare to see a museum that merges them in a sort of unplanned way. It appears that the setting of works of art and historical artifacts was based solely on Mrs. Gardner’s taste; her arrangement of the works on display gives an exclusive insight into her mind and preferences.

The guards and ushers in the museum are mostly polite, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll even run into one who’s willing to personally explain some of the pieces on display and show you some hidden gems.

Although the museum has definitely become a favorite of mine, there are also a few things that I wasn’t crazy about. First of all photography outside of the courtyard is not allowed, and although that is a common thing in museums, the peculiarity of this one would really be worth documenting, not so much for the works on display themselves, but for the architecture and interior design. It is also worth noting that writing with a pen inside the premises of the museum is not allowed, so if you’re planning on taking notes make sure to have a pencil with you.

Unfortunately one thing that is missing from the museum is an explanation for some of the historical artifacts. Even though there are cards in every room detailing what the works of art are, I found myself wondering what some of the relics were and what the story behind Mrs. Gardner’s purchase of them is.

Tips For Visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Photo by Ariela Rudy Zaltzman

A general admission ticket for the museum costs $15 but by presenting a valid student ID, the cost goes down to only $5.

The museum also offers a number of discounts that can be very useful:

  • Free admission on your birthday
  • Two days, two museums (bring a ticket stub from within two days of your visit to the MFA and receive $2 off the price of regular adult or senior admission at the Gardner Museum, or your ticket stub from the Gardner Museum to the MFA for the same discount).
  • MFA member discounts
  • Free lifetime admission for Isabellas (sounds like a joke, but its really not)
  • Red Sox paraphernalia $2 discounts (again, could be a joke… but its not!)

                                                                           – Ariela Rudy Zaltzman, Content Editor