Timeline of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The story of the museum from 1860 to the present.

1860: Isabella Stewart marries John “Jack’’ Lowell Gardner Jr. in New York City. They move to Boston and begin living in the Back Bay.

1865: John Lowell III, the Gardners’ only child, dies at the age of 2.

1884: The Gardners visit the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice (right), which inspired the design of the Gardner Museum.


1891: Gardner’s father dies, leaving her $1.6 million. The next year, she acquires one of her first major artworks, Vermeer’s “The Concert.’’

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1896: She acquires Titian’s “Europa,’’ and she and her husband decide to create a museum.

1898: Jack Gardner dies of a heart attack on Dec. 10. Six weeks later, she purchases the land and hires local architect Willard T. Sears to draw up plans for a museum.

1902: With construction of the museum complete, Gardner moves into the fourth floor. She spends the next year installing her collection of more than 2,500 pieces.

Jan. 1, 1903: The Gardner Museum opens to the public with a gala and concert performance by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


1914: The eastern side of the museum is remodeled and converted from a music room into two floors of galleries.

1924: Gardner dies at the age of 84 and leaves the museum “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever.’’ Her will stipulates that the galleries are to remain exactly as she installed them.

1927: Morris Carter becomes the museum’s first director. He sets up a Sunday concert series, believed to be the longest-running US museum music program.

1934: George L. Stout establishes a conservation department to preserve the art collection.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

1955: Stout becomes the museum’s director.


March 18, 1990: Two thieves dressed as police steal 13 works of art, including Vermeer’s “The Concert’’ (right) and Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.’’ No works have been recovered.

1992: The School and Community Partnership program is launched to create stronger ties with nearby neighborhoods.

1996: A climate-control system is installed to protect artworks and courtyard plant life.

1999: The museum begins a strategic planning process.

2003: As part of the centennial celebration, the courtyard garden is redesigned to reflect the lush style of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s time.

2006: The museum launches “The Concert,’’ a free classical podcast.

2009: Excavation begins for the wing designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

Jan. 19, 2012: Public opening of the expanded and renovated Gardner Museum.

SOURCE: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum