Laurel Caffee

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 2013

Thesis Advisor

Marilynne Diggs-Thompson


The Barnes Foundation presents an example of a Museum art collection that—with its move from its original Lower Merion location to Center City Philadelphia on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway—has finally achieved its (stated) goal of becoming a more accessible and open institution. However, the relocation of a museum to a more accessible location does not create instant open/public accessibility. This is an examination of the history of the Barnes Foundation, its inception, along with Philadelphia’s yearning form an additional upscale elite clientele. My goal is to evaluate the new Barnes vis-à-vis its original mission as it settles into its new facility. I examine various critical periods in the history of the Barnes including its function and mission before and immediately after the death of Dr. Albert Barnes, the fiscally embattled period following the death of Dr. Barnes successors, and the circumstances surrounding its move to its current Center City location where it has been recently relocated adjacent to another cultural jewel, the Rodin Museum. My argument is that the new Barnes Foundation museum is less about fulfilling or continuing the original mission or Dr. Barnes, and more about enhancing the cultural status of Philadelphia, despite arguments to the contrary. Recently, it has been well recognized that good museums are important and profitable tourist attractions and can enhance the reputation and desirability of a host city—and there is a growing body of literature on this subject. While literature on the topic of the museum as an urban enterprise continues to grow, there is little available on the subject of the relocation of a museum, or on a museums with collections as important as that of the Barnes. My goal is to analyze how the Barnes transitions into its new location and how (or if) it will continue to fulfill the original mission of the institution as it insinuates itself into Philadelphia’s local economy. I also iii argue that the true new mission of the Barnes is to help the City of Philadelphia in its quest to attract a more elite (or less blue collar) tourist with a higher level of disposable income.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 08 June 2016


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