Located near Philadelphia, in Merion, Pennsylvania, the Barnes Foundation holds one of the world's largest collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, as well as African sculpture and early American decorative art. Established in 1922 by Dr. Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951), the Foundation's art gallery is housed in a granite mansion Barnes built in 1925 that includes his attached residence, all of which sits on the 12-acre arboretum that was his original purchase. Barnes's wife Laura established a horticultural school there in 1940. The art collection is scheduled to move to a new facility in 2012, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, just blocks away from PMA and across the street from the Rodin Museum. Amid the public protests, extensive press coverage, and protracted court proceedings concerning the administration of the Barnes Foundation and its scheduled relocation, the relationship between it and PMA during d'Harnoncourt's tenure, as these files indicate, was one of professional and mutual respect and cooperation.
General files consist primarily of d'Harnoncourt's correspondence with PMA staff, Barnes staff and trustees, national and international museum professionals, institutional funders and local philanthropists. A number of topics are discussed, following the course of events at the Barnes, and the frequent advisory role requested of d'Harnoncourt and other PMA staff. Included in the correspondence of the early 1990s are reactions from peer institutions, including PMA, and professional organizations to the publicized possibility of the Foundation deaccessioning works in its art collection--an issue that came up again in 2004, when a court opinion seemed to encourage the sale of art to fund operations. Also at this time are the discussions, legal proceedings and eventual staging of an international exhibition in 1995 that brought some of the Barnes masterpieces out of its suburban home for the first time in the Foundation's history. Correspondence and other papers beginning in 2000 primarily document the Foundation's award of major funding from the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Pew Charitable Trust for the development of long-range planning, collection survey, and object conservation and cataloguing. PMA again assisted in the implementation of these tasks. By the end of 2001, a very general discussion begins in these files of the option of the Barnes moving from its original suburban locale to center city as a way to allow the financially-ailing institution to continue. By the middle of the decade, dealings with the press are regularly addressed in much of d'Harnoncourt's interoffice correspondence, reflecting the growing attention given to the legal proceedings, public accusations of collusion, and perceived intrigues involving Barnes trustees and officers, funders, scholars, students, and state and local officials.
Of the subject and name files that follow, the Art Advisory Committee, Conservation, and Curatorial Committee folders identify and generally describe in what capacity d'Harnoncourt and other senior PMA staff worked with Barnes personnel. The files of Richard Glanton correspond with his 1990-1998 tenure as President and de facto director of the Barnes. D'Harnoncourt's fairly regular exchange of correspondence with Kimberly Camp is included in the "general" 1998 to 2005 files. Camp came to the Barnes in 1998 as its first executive director and CEO. Approximately one year prior to her resignation in 2005, her position was redefined as President and CEO. General files also include correspondence with Bernard C. Watson, who was appointed Barnes President in 1999, and with Derek Gillman, who succeeded Camp in 2006. Almost all correspondence in the Lincoln University file is with its president at the time, Niara Sudarkasa, who was also a Barnes Trustee. In 1950, Dr. Barnes entrusted Lincoln, one of the country's first historically black universities, with the authority to appoint four of the five-member Board of Trustees to the Barnes, upon the death of the original trustees. When representatives of the university and the Foundation met in 1998 to discuss establishing an undergraduate program in art history and museum studies, d'Harnoncourt as well as other PMA senior staff, took part in the consultative and core planning meetings. Those meeting materials comprise the "collaborative program" file. As defined in the by-laws, the purpose of the Foundation is the "promotion of the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts." Legally, it is not a museum, and any and all changes to its operation--as well as opposition to those changes--has required sanction by county or state superior courts. As the files of "press clippings" and "legal documents" make evident, the Barnes Foundation has faced a number of controversies and court challenges for the last half a century.
With a sharp tongue, equally sharp pen, and disdain for the "art establishment," Dr. Barnes was as volatile as his legacy. The last files, "writings" include some reflections on the doctor and his unique visions of art education. Two of the "writings" consist of transcripts from an April 1995 lecture given by Julian Bond at PMA and from a 2001 public radio interview of Kimberly Camp. In the former, Bond, a noted scholar, activist and former state official, traces the relationship between his father, who served as President of Lincoln University, and Albert Barnes. Bond spoke on the occasion of the Museum's annual Albert M. Greenfield Lecture, which coincided with the Barnes international exhibition opening at PMA that month. In the latter, Camp, at that point two years into her tenure at the Foundation, speaks of the challenges, particularly financial, confronting the institution. Similarly focused on relating a story in one's own words is H. Ober Hess's undated transcript about Dr. Barnes. A long-time attorney at the Philadelphia law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Hess, who died in 2004 at the age of 91, credits his inspiration to an old file of correspondence discovered in the firm's dead file storage. The file belonged to one of the firm's senior partners, R. Sturgis Ingersoll, whose nearly 50-year relationship with PMA included tenures as President and Chairman of the Museum's Board of Trustees. Quoting from Barnes's correspondence to Ingersoll and others, Hess gives a voice to what he described as Barnes's "practice of insult, insolence, contumely and other forms of calumny" that he aimed at several Philadelphia-area art institutions and people, particularly Ingersoll and Fiske Kimball, PMA's director, as well as the local offices of the depression-era Federal Arts Program. Hess includes copies of pertinent correspondence in an appendix. It should be noted that the accounts given by Bond and Camp of Dr. Barnes's accomplishments offer counterpoints to Hess's assessment. The remaining "writings" folder consists of a small number of pamphlets written by "A.F. Brown," and issued in numerical series as "Barnes Case" and later as "Barnes Watch." Assuming the role of watchdog, these writings consistently challenged the motives and actions of the Foundation's Board and the state attorney general's office.