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Spectrum: What's Left Behind at the Barnes

The Barnes Foundation Arboretum and museum grounds, along with a fine old building, will remain part of the Barnes, and part of Merion.

The Barnes Foundation Arboretum and museum grounds, along with a fine old building, will remain part of the Barnes, and part of Merion. These are a few snapshots from a recent visit to the museum itself.

Today—July 3, 2011—is to be the final day of viewing for Albert Barnes' incredible collection of Impressionist and other art works. That is, until next spring, 2012, when the collection is to be re-created in the form laid out by Barnes. The galleries will be within a brand new building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, forming a sort of marriage with the older, long-established and recently refurbished Rodin Museum.

No matter what side of the debate you are on, today is, if not sad, at least bittersweet. We can only hope the building on Latches Lane is not allowed to remain shuttered to the public for long, like a vast mausoleum in a beautifully landscaped graveyard. We know there are plans to keep the site active, and hope they come to fruition. Perhaps it will become a vital public place in a whole new way, not yet foreseen. 

Meanwhile, even many Barnes regulars have never fully explored the stunning, 12-acre arboretum, established by Capt. Jospeh Lapsley Wilson in the 1880s and bought by Barnes in the early 1920s. Wilson stayed on to oversee the arboretum until his death later in that decade.

There are more than 3,000 species of plants, a massive library, a greenhouse, a teahouse in the woods near a koi pond, and an often overlookd arboretum school, established in 1940. There is a formal rose and perennial garden, gorgeous greenswards of grass, streams ... and many forms of peace and quiet.

Bob Guzzardi July 03, 2011 at 10:33 AM
The Arboretum was an integral part of the experience of the Impressionists and the African Art and it was an integral part of Dr. Barnes vision. That experience is lost and one man's vision is destroyed.
walter herman July 03, 2011 at 06:47 PM
the destruction of a potential national landmark{all the approvals save the trustees' were in place},is a quiet national disaster. it's as if monticello,or independence hall{landmarks both},would be moved for "convenience". the trumpeted" financial difficulties",are bogus,as is the perennial charge of "hostile neighbors". this debacle has been orchestrated by powers{financial/political} in no way interested in art or education,but rather the commercial dollar,and tourism. how sad!!

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