The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Puts Final Touches on a Comeback

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The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Puts Final Touches on a Comeback
© Karsten Moran
The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Puts Final Touches on a Comeback
© Karsten Moran

At the Wadsworth Atheneum, they called it the Leak Tour, and sometimes the Horror Tour.

It wasn’t led by docents, but by the new director, Susan L. Talbott. In 2008, she guided board members and prospective donors through the many places where water was seeping into the exhibition galleries of the country’s oldest continuously operating art museum, founded in 1842.

“I was getting calls night after night, in the middle of the night, about the leaks,” said Ms. Talbott, who recalled the efforts made to move some of the 50,000 works in its fine arts collection to safer spots after each breach was discovered.

Torn, burned carpets in the galleries were also a feature of the tours. One of the museum’s five buildings, the Avery, was a “humiliation, it was so dusty,” Ms. Talbott said. She added, with a shiver, “We had disgusting, grody bathrooms that depressed me.”

It was perhaps the Wadsworth’s low point, after a difficult period that saw budget deficits, three directors in a decade and the scrapping of two expansion plans, one of them a $100 million design by the architect Ben van Berkel and UNStudio. []

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