Beyond Somerville: The Art Forger & the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

I recently met someone who just moved to Somerville and one of the first questions he had was about our library. As a voracious reader, I was excited to meet someone else with lots of literary love and promptly bombarded him with all of the reasons the Somerville Public Library is awesome.

In addition to events for children and adults, book sales and borrowing materials from the library network’s extensive collection, one of my favorite perks the library offers is museum passes. Any adult resident of Somerville can reserve a discount pass to a variety of local museums that get you in for cheap.

Passes are available for places like the Boston Children’s Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Science as well as the Boston Harbor Islands and the New England Aquarium. The passes do require some advance planning as they tend to get snatched up quickly in the summer, but it’s worth it to save mega bucks on pricey museum admissions.

After reading The Art Forger, I really wanted to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, so I reserved the pass and trekked downtown. The pass for this museum gets four people in for only $5 each instead of the usual $15 admission fee. Each museum pass is different, but all offer similarly sweet savings.

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I met a girlfriend at the museum and we lunched at Café G at a lovely table overlooking a courtyard. The menu changes frequently, highlighting seasonal, local ingredients. Our salmon sliders and peach salads with spicy arugula made the perfect summer lunch. (Pro Tip: Make a reservation in advance as the café fills up quickly.)

The museum itself is unlike any other I’ve ever visited. It was Gardner’s home and she left exacting instructions on how it was to be taken care of after her death. The rooms on the first floor are mostly small and cramped, while the second and third floors open up, though all are quite dark and shadowy. Evidence of Gardner’s free-spirited eccentricity abounds in the diversity of objects she collected and how she chose to display them. It was especially interesting to see the empty frames left from the infamous 1990 heist of 13 paintings.

Central to the museum is the stunning courtyard populated by beautiful blooms and statues dating back to the dawn of modern history. I loved getting a peek at the courtyard from the various rooms and floors and noticed something different each time it came into view. It’s truly the crown jewel of the museum and worth spending time studying.

For a fun summer activity that won’t break the bank, get a copy of Somerville Reads’ The Art Forger and then reserve an Isabella Stewart Gardner museum pass from the library to explore the historic site. And let me know what you think!

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