Document Type



This paper analyzes why the Barnes Foundation could not continue as Dr. Albert Barnes had originally envisioned. Why did the courts have to resort to deviation? Can there be lessons learned from the Barnes for other single donor museums? I look at a few single donor museums and make a comparative analysis of legal history, governance, economics, and establishing documents to see how these institutions can best adapt and survive. My focus is on the Barnes Foundation, but, in varying degrees of detail, I also look at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and The Terra Museum of American Art. In Part II, I examine at public access to these single donor museums and how sometimes the donors’ wishes conflict with public benefit. It is not only donor intent that sometimes conflicts with public access, but zoning laws as well. Part III considers how single donor institutions may be especially susceptible to the doctrines of cy pres and deviation. I also analyze how these institutions’ missions are affected when a court orders a deviation or cy pres. Part IV examines issues of donor control of various institutions. In this section I explore not only single donor museums, but compare this type of donation with funding of an already established public museum. Are there more conflicts with a donor trying to “buy” influence at a pre-existing museum rather than starting his own museum? Lastly, because it is impossible to understand the personality of a single donor museum without knowing who the single donor is, I have included appendices that give the background and history of Dr. Albert Barnes and Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Date of Authorship for this Version

May 2007


art law, single donor museums