One of the best museums in the city is actually a reboot. From 2008 to 2014, Harvard set about building and expanding the old home for the Fogg Art Museum, and just last year, the newly opened Harvard Art Museums building boasts the European art collections of the Fogg, the Germanic works of the Busch-Reisinger and the Asian holdings of the Sackler museums all combined in one place. The works that you’ll find here are mostly gifts provided to the university by Harvard’s various generations of successful alumni.
With all that said, given that the museum’s holdings have been largely built by donation rather than active acquisition, its catalog is still very impressive. They have the largest collection of Chinese jade outside of China, their European and North American art features a respectable number of works from famous masters, and their collection of photographs from the pioneering fine art photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, is stunningly comprehensive. This all exists in a building that’s about a quarter the size of the MFA and quite manageable for a leisurely hour in the square or a whole afternoon if you want to get lost in it.
Also as a bonus for actual locals – Cambridge residents get in for free whenever they’d like, and Massachusetts residents can go in for free on Saturday mornings before noon.