While I appreciate Adam Meyerson’s endorsement of my work, I wish to clarify my position on a few specific points with respect to the Barnes Foundation. First, Albert Barnes’s problem was that, while he was perfectly clear about his intentions for the foundation and its collections, he was unable to ensure the preservation of that intent after his friends and associates passed away. His decision to award Lincoln University trusteeship of his foundation was rash and regrettable; as Meyerson notes, it began a cascade of events that led to the crushing of Albert Barnes’s wishes in 2004. In general, I believe the best way to preserve donor intent is for donors to set voluntary time limits on their foundations of no longer than 30 years after the founder’s demise. But the problem of preserving donor intent in museums designed to exist in perpetuity is a far more complex one and simply has no easy answer.
Second, regarding the Barnes Foundation’s endowment, it should be noted that Barnes insisted that his wealth be invested in government securities because of his political beliefs: he was a social democrat who did not want to be accused of hiding money from the government. Meyerson correctly observes that these restrictions ensured that the endowment was smaller than it otherwise would have been.
Martin Morse Wooster is a senior fellow at the Capital Research Center.