What to Expect When You Visit

When Isabella Stewart Gardner created her museum she wanted it to be “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever.” It’s important to know that Isabella designed it as an immersive environment. The result is a highly singular collection that includes not just art but also flowers and plants, textiles, furniture, and architecture. As Isabella said, “it’s my pleasure,” but it is likely to be yours as well.

Photography and video are allowed!

You are welcome to take non-flash photos or video of works of art and the galleries for your personal enjoyment, but not for commercial use. Unfortunately, we cannot allow tripods or selfie sticks, or accommodate professional or personal photo/video shoots. For information on images for scholarly or commercial purposes, please see our Rights and Reproductions page.

Lighting levels vary—by design

The lighting in the Museum varies from space to space and from season to season, with the architectural elements creating the interplay of light and shadow that has always been part of the Museum experience.  You’ll notice that many of the galleries have lower light levels to protect the art from long-term damage.

Be careful of the collection

Even the lightest touch can damage a work of art, so please don’t touch the art, furniture, or decorative objects. You are welcome to lift the fabric covering the glass on certain display cases throughout the Museum; these coverings are clearly labeled.

There are many ways to learn more

Isabella created her installations to evoke an emotional response in visitors. That’s why, unlike at other institutions, there aren’t conventional labels in this museum. She wanted you to find your own meanings. To learn more about the collection, you can purchase an audio tour at the admissions desk. There are also free resources including laminated guides in each room, tours and talks, and knowledgeable volunteers (wearing buttons that say “Ask Me”) located in the galleries and on the first floor of the New Wing. You can download the Museum overview and the room guides, available in multiple languages, before you visit.

Children are welcome

Children under 18 are always free. You can find tips for visiting with children on our Family Visits page.

Please check backpacks, coats, and bulky items

If possible, leave bulky items at home so you can comfortably enjoy your visit. All backpacks, packages, large purses, and umbrellas, plus bulky outerwear, must be checked at the coat check on the first floor; there is no charge*.

Mobile phones and devices are permitted

Use of mobile devices is permitted in the Museum for data and research. If you need to talk on your cell phone, please go to the entrance area or outside the Museum. There is a phone charging station in the Living Room.

Sketch with pencils

Feel free to sketch with pencil in notebooks 11 x 14 inches or smaller. Unfortunately, we can’t allow other drawing materials such as colored pencils, ink pens, etc. in the galleries. Pencils and paper can be found in the Living Room in the new building and in the Cloisters around the Museum’s courtyard.

Lost and Found

If you have lost an item, please call the Lost and Found at the Box Office at 617 278 5156.

No smoking

Smoking is not permitted anywhere in the Museum or in the outside gardens.

We are committed to accessibility

The Museum offers resources to ensure the accessibility of the Museum, its programs and events. Visit the accessibility page for a complete overview.

Food and drink is available in the Cafe

Please don’t bring food and drink to the Museum. Light bites, coffee, and full meals are all available in the beautiful glass-walled Café G. In nice weather, you can also picnic in Evans Way Park across from the front entrance to the Museum.

*The Gardner Museum is not responsible for items held at the coat check. If you have valuables such as your ID or travel documents that you wish not to check, tote bags are available to borrow at the coat check.