Your Museum, Reimagined

“Sometimes a small push will give motion to a big body.”

- Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat in a letter to John Calvin Stevens, circa 1903, regarding her donation of the McLellan House and financing of the L.D.M. Sweat Memorial Galleries

In a series of letters with architect John Calvin Stevens around 1903, some 20 years after the founding of the Portland Society of Art, Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat wrote this line with regards to the museum she would fundamentally shape.

Before Sweat passed away in 1908, she allocated $100,000 of her estate toward the construction of the L.D.M. Sweat Memorial Galleries—named for her late husband Lorenzo de Medici Sweat—and also donated the home they shared together, the McLellan House.

These two buildings provided a permanent home for the Society— later known as the Portland Museum of Art, or PMA—and rooted the museum as the cultural heart of the state of Maine.

In the years and decades since, the PMA has continued the tradition Sweat put into motion more than 100 years ago—adding a robust collection of art by Winslow Homer through the generosity of Charles Shipman Payson; constructing the modern home of the PMA, the Charles Shipman Payson Building; purchasing the Charles Q. Clapp House and property adjacent to the museum; and most recently, purchasing, restoring, and reopening the Winslow Homer Studio and surrounding land, preserving Homer’s views of Prouts Neck for generations to come.

It’s with this understanding of the PMA’s rich and storied past that the PMA fundamentally changed the way audiences experience the museum. This period has been marked by a renewed dedication to the museum’s collection and consideration of its presentation in our galleries. Through careful and strategic planning, the experiences with art at the PMA are better than ever.

It's your museum, reimagined.

Enhancing the PMA campus

The PMA campus comprises several architecturally and historically significant buildings in the heart of downtown Portland. One of the elements of Your Museum, Reimagined is to upgrade and preserve these tremendous cultural assets and consider new ways to present these buildings to the public.

The PMA will achieve this by instituting processes for infrastructure investment; preparing for already-identified improvement projects and further campus development opportunities; and fostering a “greener” profile in our programs and physical resources. The improvements will include everything from fresh coats of paint and new lighting in the galleries to substantial upgrades to the roof to a more energy-efficient HVAC system.

In addition to the buildings themselves, the PMA will rethink its outdoor and public spaces, improving public access and eco-friendliness, and installing art from the collection in new ways. To further these goals, in the summer of 2016 the PMA transitioned to natural fertilizer and organic herbicide in its lawn maintenance, and installed John Bisbee’s sculpture, Hearsay, in the Joan B. Burns Garden. In fall of 2016 the PMA announced the opening of the David E. Shaw and Family Sculpture Park in July 2017—transforming the Joan B. Burns Garden in a public arts space that is open to all during museum hours.


Your Museum, Reimagined is a multiyear project based around improved access, and will fundamentally change the way the public interacts with the PMA, its collection, its programs, and more. 

Learn more about Your Museum, Reimagined by clicking the links below:

Collection Catalogue

The Collection Online

Peggy L. Osher Art Study and Collection Committee Conference Room

The Workshop

Modern Menagerie