Newark Museum Is Now the Newark Museum of Art



Nov. 6, 2019


Shakespeare might be right that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but the leaders of New Jersey’s largest museum felt that changing its name was an important part of shaping its identity. The Newark Museum announced on Wednesday that it would now be known as the Newark Museum of Art.

Linda Harrison, the museum’s chief executive and director, explained that the decision to change its name was driven by both practical and philosophical considerations. Surveys conducted by the museum revealed that a large portion of its prospective audience was confused about what type of museum the Newark Museum was. “The data really helped drive home that we want to be clear and have people be clear about what we are and what they can expect,” she said in an interview.

Among the 110-year-old museum’s most significant holdings are its collection of Tibetan art, considered to be one of the most significant in the Western Hemisphere, and its collection of American art, which includes work from the colonial era and the 19th century Hudson River School of painting as well as modern pieces by Edward HopperGeorgia O’Keeffe and others.

But for Ms. Harrison, who became the museum’s eighth director early this year, emphasizing art isn’t just a way to publicize the museum’s rich collections. “We want the museum to now be an active hub, an ecosystem where art begins and drives conversations about big ideas and social issues,” she said. This approach, she added, is aimed at making the museum more welcoming to a broad range of visitors.

The parts of the museum that aren’t focused on art — like its planetarium and the Ballantine House, its historical landmark Victorian mansion — will also be used to encourage discussion and community engagement. Ms. Harrison says that she is currently focused on questions like: “What can we do to tell some new stories about the Ballantine family? How does this all connect for a contemporary visitor?”

To celebrate its new name, the museum will offer free admission, live music and children’s activities on Wednesday. Visitors will also be able to sample food from the museum’s new cafe, which is set to open early next year, and contribute their selfies to a mosaic re-creation of Hopper’s painting “The Sheridan Theater” (1937).

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