555 East Forty-Seventh Street
Columbia, TN 38402
September 28, 2004
Frist Center for the Visual Arts
Nashville, TN 37203
To Whom it May Concern:
My name is Louise Barnard. I have visited your museum twice recently, and on both occasions I had an unpleasant experience due to absurd security issues.
As a college humanities instructor, I was delighted that a museum so close to my home would be hosting the Phillips Collection, featuring paintings from El Greco to Picasso. One of my classes made arrangements for a field trip to view some of the masterpieces we had previously seen only in textbooks or art books. On March 26, 2004, we visited your museum. Well aware that the paintings on exhibit are priceless, my students and I were careful not to get too close to any paintings, and we certainly came nowhere near touching any of the artwork; however, our caution did not stop your security from harassing us about remaining x number of inches away at all times, etc. At the time I felt as though security was a bit obsessive compared to that in other museums, but the museum was very crowded with children on that day, so I attempted to justify the obsession in my mind. I returned to the exhibit on May 13, 2004 with my mother, my son, and my closest friend, who was visiting from Alabama. In March, we had viewed an exhibit together at the Birmingham Museum of Art, featuring the French Old Masters and Impressionists. Here we viewed several priceless paintings. Last year in May, this same friend and I visited the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. While one of your security guards harassed me for pointing at something in one of the paintings--I was behind the designated line--no one at these other museums was imposing, aggressive, or offensive about security. Their security was present but not so eager to find fault with guests who had paid to view the artwork.
I understand the great necessity for security at your museum. I also understand the meaning of the word priceless; however, I do not understand the unnecessary harassment of visitors that I have only experienced at your museum. Others, strangers around me during both of the visits mentioned above were observant of this absurd behavior from your security as well. I hope that you will work with them on how to do their jobs without insulting their customers.