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The Boston Globe

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Gardner shows off its graceful update

When leaders of the 109-year-old Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum unveiled its $114 million addition yesterday, they did so with an eye toward the past.

On a January evening in 1903, Isabella Stewart Gardner opened her new museum in grand fashion, with a concert, a courtyard filled with flowers, and priceless art all around. Yesterday, at the official unveiling of the Gardner’s $114 million expansion, the spirit of the glamorous socialite who once lived on the fourth floor of the original palazzo museum seemed to hover over the proceedings.

“It wasn’t an easy job’’ coming up with an expansion worthy of the museum’s original benefactor, said architect Renzo Piano. “You cannot compete with magic. What we did was not about becoming bigger. It’s about saving the palace.’’

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