Barnes retreat to become museum

Ker-Feal, a 1775 house to be developed for use by small tour groups

October 11, 2001|By Stephan Salisbury | Stephan Salisbury,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

PHILADELPHIA - The 18th-century Chester County, Pa., retreat of Albert C. Barnes, the millionaire collector and progenitor of the renowned Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pa., will be transformed into a living-history museum, foundation officials said recently.

As part of the continuing effort to chart a future for the financially troubled foundation, home to one of the finest collections of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the world, Barnes director Kimberly Camp said Ker-Feal, the 1775 stone house in Chester Springs that Albert Barnes purchased in 1941, would be developed for use by small tour groups.

No timetable for the project has been set, she said, and much needs to be done to ready the structure for public use.

Ker-Feal is filled with a vast collection of antique furniture and decorative works, with particular emphasis on Pennsylvania Dutch pieces.

All items have now been inventoried for the first time, Camp said. The foundation embarked on a $3 million collection assessment and inventory project this year.

About $1.2 million has been raised so far.

The foundation's collection at its various buildings in Merion and at Ker-Feal, Camp said, consists of about 9,000 items. The latest insurance estimates place its value at about $25 billion.

"There's stuff everywhere," Camp said, alluding to the foundation's holdings.

Camp also said the foundation was seeking to raise about $7 million to stabilize and renovate various structures, including Ker-Feal and the arboretum, tea house and administrative center in Merion. The funds will also go toward construction of an administration and conservation center and a greenhouse, also in Merion.

When completed, the assessment project will provide the first complete inventory as well as digital imaging and computerization of the Barnes archives, which consist of over 500,000 documents and about 10,000 photographs, and authentication of all artworks.

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