Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Philly Rocks Stay Home. Paintings Too?

In a previous posting, I observed that departure of an elderly person from home upon entry into a residential care facility is a tremendous dislocation involving irrevocable personal loss. With the decrease in independence and the increase in dependence upon others, ill-health & depression often follow. See: How Does It Feel . . . With No Direction Home? (10/20/06).

How does it feel? How does it feel?
To be without a home,
Like a complete unknown,
Like a rolling stone?

-- Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"

Nationally, the trend is changing to favor retention of seniors' homes and to facilitate their continued residence at home by innovative, efficient means.

Has Pennsylvania similarly disfavored retention of the original, individual "homes" established for artifact collections created here?

In analogizing to home care for individuals, I ask in another way:
Has Pennsylvania -- a state blessed with priceless treasured items in collections created here by Pennsylvanians -- similarly favored relocation of such collections away from their homes based upon the financial needs of their charitable owners, rather than the retention & maintenance of such collections in their already-established "homes" by innovative means and with devoted caretakers?
The City of Philadelphia believes in retaining valuable artwork & collections having their "home" there.

In a frenzy of negotiation & fund-raising, Philadelphians determined to prevent the sale of Thomas Eakin's magnificent painting,
"The Gross Clinic", by its owner, Thomas Jefferson University, to a Wal-Mark heiress. In December, 2006, a Philadelphia consortium was successful in making a counteroffer, thereby preventing the anticipated relocation of that painting out-of-state. See: Fiduciary Duties When Art Is "For Sale" (12/26/06).

When the announcement was made by TJU officials, it included this statement: "In addition to fulfilling our fiduciary responsibility, we gave the local cultural institutions the opportunity to keep the painting."

Just last week, the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia announced in a Press Release, dated June 15, 2007, entitled "Academy vows to retain mineral collection", that "[t]he Academy of Natural Sciences has no intention of giving up its historic William S. Vaux mineral collection."
President and CEO Dr. William Y. Brown, in an affidavit signed today in the Orphans’ Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas, makes those intentions crystal clear. According to Brown’s testimony, if the proposed sale of the 7,300-piece collection is not approved by the court, the Academy is “prepared to keep and properly care for the collection.”

In preparation, the Academy has developed a multi-year plan that addresses the measures taken to ensure the collection is in top condition. * * *

"The Academy looks forward to caring for the Vaux Collection and providing access to it along with the earliest minerals collected in the Americas by the Lewis & Clark expedition and others," said Brown.

“The vast and seminal collections of the Academy, including these, date from the dawn of science in this hemisphere. We have no higher priority than their stewardship.”

For newspaper reports regarding this development in the maintenance of the Vaux Collection and the proceeding before the Orphans' Court Division, of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, PA, see: "Academy will not sell historic mineral collection", published on June 16, 2007, by The Associated Press, and posted online by PennLive.
The Academy of Natural Sciences has abandoned a controversial plan to sell a historic mineral collection. Academy president William Y. Brown signed an affidavit Friday saying the institution "is prepared to keep and properly care for the collection." * * *

The proposed sale of the William S. Vaux collection generated months of debate among local advocates and in the national mineralogic community when it was announced last year. Some felt it would be close to sacrilege to sell the 7,300-piece collection, which probably would have led to its being broken up. It was amassed in the 1800s, when Philadelphia was considered a cradle of mineralogy.
* * *

But court approval was needed for the sale because Vaux, a Victorian gentleman and academy officer, had specified in his bequest to the institution that the minerals remain on view there. That bequest already had been violated, since the collection had for years been locked away, unavailable for either display or study. With no full-time curator, some specimens had deteriorated. Some had been pilfered.

Vaux's great-great-niece, Trina Vaux of Bryn Mawr, who opposed the sale, submitted a plan at a court hearing last spring to have Bryn Mawr College and the Wagner Free Institute of Science take the collection. With no money to be made in such a transfer, and indications that the court would rule against the sale, the academy decided to have Brown sign the affidavit, which is expected to be filed Monday in Orphans' Court. * * *
See also: "Local Museum Decides Not to Sell Collection", posted by KYW News on June 16, 2007; and "Rock on: Academy won't sell collection", by Sandy Bauers, published on June 16, 2007, in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

[Academy President William Y.] Brown took over the presidency in February and seemed to be a clear advocate for the collections.

"I feel very strongly that the Academy of Natural Sciences needs to, in general, stand ready to care for its entire collection," he said yesterday. "I think that's expected of us by the people of Philadelphia and people throughout the world that know the academy."

Consider now the attempt by the Commissioners of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, on behalf of their residents, to maintain the home of the Barnes Foundation's $30 billion collection of artwork in Lower Merion Township, as opposed to its planned move to a location within the city limits of Philadelphia.

If it could be feasible, with some innovative arrangements, for the Barnes Museum to remain where it is -- in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, PA -- as contemplated by its founder, should it be allowed to stay in its home too?

Such an effort is underway. See:
Next Round for the Barnes Foundation (06/11/07).

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home!"

-- Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), wishing to return to Kansas
while wearing the ruby slippers, in the Wizard of Oz (1939).