In Oct. 2017 the Freer Gallery of Art, one of the Smithsonian Institution's two Asian museums of art, reopened after nearly two years of renovations.  One major objective was to upgrade the climate control and humidity control systems for the building, which opened in 1923.  Coinciding with the infrastructure renovations, curators took the opportunity to reenvision "how the collections are exhibited, how the museum's narrative is told, and how it relates to a 21st century audience."  Among the changes, labels describing objects are now simplified, shortened and have catchy titles, key objects are identified with red labels, and galleries are viewed as "thematic min-exhibitions."  The overhaul, led by outgoing director Julian Raby highlights and gives fresh perspective on the gallery's many treasures.  The galleries marked the re-opening with a media preview on Oct. 11 and a two-day festival on Oct. 14-15.

The Peacock Room by James McNeil Whistler was originally done for shipowner Frederick Leyland in London.  Gallery founder Charles Lang Freer, acquired it and moved it to his mansion in Detroit in 1904; later it was moved to the gallery in Washington, DC.  Visitors will notice that the shelves which formerly held blue and white porcelain, now hold vessels of many different textures and colors.  Curators worked from black and white photographs to restock the shelves as they were when the room was in Freer's home in the early 20th century.

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Freer Gallery of Art founder Charles Lang Freer was an industrialist who made his money manufacturing railcars in the late 1800s, and who amassed an art collection of more than 5,000 items.  The gallery continues to build on the collection, and now has approximately 26,000 items.  It is closely connected with the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, which opened in 1987.  The two galleries have a staff of 103 full-time employees and an annual budget of $33 million (FY2016).