Beginning last Thursday and intensifying Friday and Saturday before tapering off Sunday and Memorial Day, visitors to the brand-new Barnes on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway were greeted with increasingly long waits to get into the galleries — despite having timed tickets that should have alleviated extended waiting.
Once inside, some visitors were rushed through galleries — teeming with works by Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne and other early modern masters — in an hour or less; some were told they could not visit the second floor; others were compelled to join a tour that zipped through room after room at Indy 500 speeds.
The root of the problem, say Barnes officials, appears to have been a new computer ticketing system that quietly began double-booking the galleries. The system should not have okayed more than 150 or so tickets per hour, but it set its own priorities and began spewing out approvals at an alarming rate.
The problem did not become evident until Thursday, when Barnes officials noticed a significant buildup in attendance.
Faced with a burgeoning crowd of expectant patrons and a commitment to limit the number of visitors to the small galleries, Barnes officials said they implemented stop-gap measures — hasty tours, time limits, and waiting.
"We winged it," said a spokeswoman. "By Friday we began putting something in place, but we knew we’d have problems Friday and Saturday."
On those days, not wanting to turn anyone away, Barnes officials began postponing admissions to the galleries — which simply pushed the crowd down the road, creating even more problems for those who came later. Some visitors waited for as long as three hours to enter.
Barnes officials said the gremlin in the computer system has been located and removed, and visitors on Wednesdaysaid they experienced no problems with tickets or timing.
Barnes officials said they have offered those visitors who were unable to wait free tickets for some future date.
"All of these systems are new and we really didn’t have time to test everything before we went operational," a Barnes spokeswoman lamented. "We didn’t build in enough testing time."