The Residential Museum/The Museum as a Residence

The common thinking about Museums is that Museums are public places and not places whereby one may use as a residence. Court cases have established that museum ownership prohibits ownership establishing residence. It must open to the public for certain periods of time without any residential status.The fundamental issue has to do with tax exempt status. Since a museum is offering a benefit to the public by allowing the public to enter and enjoy the artworks available, the government allows that no taxes need to be paid. Additionally as a museum various grants and largesse may flow to the museum providing a greater benefit to the donor/owner. As an art/museum lovers my wife and I cherish museum trips, lectures, and docent led tours. More importantly we also love how museums are set up, particularly the open-air museum. The downside of museum attendance are the costs, travel time and hazards going from our residence to NYC museums. We live in Princeton Junction and it has taken on occasion 8 hours start to finish to attend a museum in New York. Add meal costs in addition to travel and you are looking at a few hundred dollars to trip to a renowned museum in NYC. As age drags one down in certain aspects it also provides certain levels of enlightenment in terms of raising questions about life choices. As indoctrinated museum afficianones begin to analyze the benefits of traveling to a NYC or Philadelphia museum and the possibility of creating one’s own museum. That is to say, yes MOMA and the MET are fantastic places to visit with wonderful aesthetic and non art aesthetic experiences such as having lunch overlooking the Cleopatra’s Needle or the MOMA sculpture garden to name a few. Having to travel back to home however, erases or at least mitigates the benefits of the trip. Is there a way around this conundrum? Picasso offered a solution-make lemonade out of lemons or create something new from something already in existence. (example)


The trip from that which is to that which is new requires a review of what constitutes “which is”. What are the elements of “which is” or what are those reference points of the museum experience? To begin with not everyone “gets” the experience.The experience exists on many levels: the aesthetic-surreal, abstract,historical,biblical, restaurants and their views,lectures,trips,neighborhoods,etc. Those who understand the experience might assert that the most enjoyable experiences have to do with the combined level of the aesthetic; add enjoyable food, a pond, outdoor sculptures,a certain degree of outdoor environment trees flowers,walking paths while enjoying various sculptures taking the place of a backyard lawn.. MOMA, Grounds for Sculpture, Princeton University Museum and Storm King provide excellent examples of the reference points of enjoyable museum experiences- lunch with the sculptures, sit by the pond, smell the flowers, and laugh at the whimsical.The barrier preventing crossing into the museum from the residence is that according to the IRS law one cannot.

     This conundrum however is easily challenged by the fact that unless one is looking for a tax break or grant and ones property is not blocked by statutory regulation- you cannot place a sculpture outside of your house (non federal laws do not dictate how you occupy your residence)- one can usually populate the property with a myriad of sculptural items, paths, flowers and so on-hence the residential open air museum.