Today a special celebration of the wonderful news that the Barnes Collection seems to have been successfully moved from its suburban home to museum row in downtown Philadelphia. You can read all the details in the NY Times, and my personal thoughts follow.
Why I Sympathize with the Barnes Suburban Neighbors
I have complete sympathy with the Barnes’s former neighbors at the collections’s original location. My own neighborhood has deteriorated uncontrollably within the last few years. Although I live in the same house as before, I am now within a half block of a popular local watering hole. To make matters worse, the bar is located right next door to a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall!
Beginning around 11 am on Wednesday and continuing through the weekend, our street is overcrowded with the beat-up trucks and junk cars owned by the bar patrons. The upscale cars and SUVs of the religious folk come out in force beginning at 10 am on Saturday and Sunday and occasionally on weeknights.
The overcrowding means I risk my life each time I try to exit or enter my driveway. My sightlines are almost completely blocked because excessively thirsty patrons or late churchgoers invariably park at the very edge of my driveway, as cars race up and down the street. Nobody cares. People who have had a few too many are understandably loud, but you wouldn’t believe how loud the religious folk can be after a service while you are trying to watch TV, get some sleep, or write a blog.
We also have a constant litter problem, and the bar patrons like to use the trees across the street from our house as a public toilet. You cannot control the rude behavior of a small minority of visitors. I definitely sympathize with the neighbors at the original Barnes location, whose quiet streets were increasingly traveled by huge buses belching exhaust and overcrowded with visitors desperate to park whever they could.
The Collection – A Treasure!
I was one of the many guilty visitors. Hearing that the future of the collection was in doubt and that the neighbors were militant about severely restricting access, my sister and I took a bus trip organized by a local museum one Saturday about a decade ago and made our pilgrimage to the Barnes.
Seeing the superb collection itself and the quirky way it was arranged was an unforgettable experience. But the rooms were crowded, and many of the pieces were difficult to see properly. Facilities were constricted, not only because it was a popular attraction but also because it shared the building with an equally valuable art school.
Although there are always Luddites among us, the Times article suggests that people who understand and respect the collection have worked a small miracle in Philadelphia and restored the suburban neighborhood near the original site to its former state of peace and quiet.