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Touring The Barnes Art Collection in Philadelphia with Kids

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I love amusement parks and rides as much as the next girl; however, I also like to add activities with art and culture into our vacations. At ages 7 and 4, I felt like my kids were “museum ready.” Real museum ready.

I enjoy taking my boys children’s museums, but I also want to bring them to the Louvre in the future. So for our first non-kid art museum we visited the art collection of The Barnes Foundation located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, PA.

The Barnes Collection has an interesting history: until recently the pieces were part of a private collection. With 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes and 3000+ additional pieces, this collection is a must-see attraction in Philly, if for no reason other than to see how the various pieces are displayed. Founder Dr. Albert Barnes formed various theories about how people appreciate and learn from art.

The Barnes Collection is not considered a kid museum, but it is certainly appropriate for kids ages 5 and older. I say over age 5 because the art is just a mere foot away and easily can be touched, which would be a crime! There are plenty of guards to keep the priceless artwork safe, but they don’t bother anyone unless they get a little too close.

Once you enter, your child will receive an ArtSee gallery kit which includes information on Dr. Barnes along with an art detective kit. In addition, the Barnes museum provides iPods for a self-guided tour of the museum for adults and kids. With the use of technology and the ArtSee gallery kit, the art really comes to life!

The Barnes Foundation also encourages families to attend the Free First Sunday to enjoy no-cost admission to the Barnes Collection that also includes ArtSee activities, Artime storytime, curator chats, live music and more.

Barnes Art Collection at the Barnes Museum

The art collection at the Barnes Museum is displayed the same way that Dr. Barnes wanted it seen in his own home.

Tips for Viewing The Barnes Art Collection with Kids

If you plan on visiting while in Philadelphia, reservations are highly recommended because the Barnes museum is small and can only allow certain amount of people at one time. You can book online or over the phone between 10 am and 4 pm daily. Walk-up tickets may not always be available, especially during busy times like weekends and holidays.

The galleries are small, so to protect the artwork all guests are required to check large bags, umbrellas and jackets at the complimentary coat check.

The entire museum is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

Taking photographs in the majority of the Barnes museum is prohibited and sketching is never allowed. Security guards will enforce these rules.

The entire collection was originally hung in a private residence; therefore, there are no plaques explaining the art or the reasons behind the way it is displayed. The only explanation offered is that it has been hung in the same way that Dr. Barnes wanted it shown in his home. The self-guided iPod tour gives you some insight, but no one really knows except for the late Dr. Barnes.

Self-guided audio tours in several languages are provided on iPods and are included in the Barnes Foundation admission fee so you do not need to rent.

The original home, and former Barnes residence, is located in Merion, PA with a 12-acre arboretum. The Barnes Arboretum horticulture programs are another option to infuse your vacation with education. Check the website prior to visiting because the arboretum is only open to the public for certain days beginning in the Spring.

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Photographs © 2012 The Barnes Foundation

Divina R Posted by:

Divina was born in Asuncion, Paraguay and moved to the United States when she was 5-years old. Since then she has become a wife, a mommy of…

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