Reciprocal Museum Membership Programs

Reciprocal Museum Programs
This is a time of year when many people join or renew art museum memberships, or receive them as gifts.

Most art museums offer membership at various levels, each of which comes with perks to encourage the purchase of more expensive membership levels.

What’s not always obvious is that some of those levels often include membership in a reciprocal museum program. These allow your museum membership to grant you admission — and often bookshop discounts and other perks — at numerous other museums and institutions that participate in the same program.

If you like to travel and visit other museums, particularly small regional ones, this can be a tremendous value.

The largest of these programs is the North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM), which offers reciprocal privileges to over 900 institutions in North America. Not all of these are art museums, of course, but many may be of interest and they can even include institutions like arboretums and formal gardens.

The NARM member list is offered as a PDF (this link may change over time) or as a map.

The next largest program of which I’m aware is ROAM, the Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums, with a smaller list, but one that may pertain to museums in which you’re interested.

Another, small but relevant program is the Art Museum Reciprocal Network. This seems to be less of an organization than an informal agreement between the participating museums. The list of participating museums also seems to vary between institutions and membership levels. (For example, joining this network through the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the list, joining the same network through the Delaware Art Museum does not, though both PMA and DAM offer admission privileges to each other.}

There are also regional programs in the west and south of the US. Many museums are participants in more than one program, so there can be some overlap; others are only on one program.

In all cases, if you are interested, check the asterisks, footnotes and small print before joining. There are limitations and conditions, in particular, limitations about excluding museums within a certain mile radius of the issuing institution.

ROAM has a 25 mile limit, inside which reciprocal memberships do not apply; NARM has individual restrictions of varying milage (from 15 to 90) on some institutions, limited either by the issuing museum of the one being visited. There are other limitations at various museums for bookstore privileges, special events, and certain special exhibitions.

Given those conditions, it may actually be advantageous to join through a museum outside your area, but I prefer to support museums I visit regularly.

It’s also worth shopping around on the membership pages of the individual museums to see which museums offer membership in the reciprocal organizations at the lowest membership level cost. This can vary quite a bit between museums for the same reciprocal network. It’s up to each participating institution to set their own membership cost level in which to include the reciprocal membership as a benefit.

We have a membership to both the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Delaware Art Museum at the reciprocal membership level, which gives us membership at a reasonable price point in NARM through the Brandywine, and both ROAM and the Art Museum Reciprocal Network through the DAM. It also supports two small but superb regional museums that we visit often.


Eye Candy for Today: William Henry Hunt watercolor and gouache still life

Apple, Grapes and a Cob-Nut , watercolor and gouache still life
Apple, Grapes and a Cob-Nut; William Henry Hunt

Watercolor and gouache over graphite; roughly 5 x 7 inches (13 x 19 cm); in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of the image on their site.

Early 19th century English artist William Henry Hunt painted his exactingly detailed still life subjects — often fruit or birds’ nests — in a painstaking stipple technique over a ground of “Chinese White” (zinc white gouache). This gave them a luminescent quality admired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, who took up the technique later in the century.


Eye Candy for Today: Sargent travel watercolor

Simplon Pass: The Tease, John Singer Sargent

Link is to zoomable image on Google Art Project; there is a downloadable high-res file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Watercolor over graphite sketch, with gouache and the use of wax resist; roughly 16 x 21 inches (40 x 53 cm).

In addition to his extraordinary formal portrait paintings in oil, John Singer Sargent was one of the great masters of watercolor.

Here is one of Sargent’s seemingly casual but brilliant travel watercolors, painted for his own pleasure while touring Europe. Sargent was in his 40s when he grew weary of painting portraits of the moneyed elite, took up his watercolors and went on extended trips across Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.

This one was painted at the Simplon Pass on the border between Switzerland and Italy, a location he returned to on several occasions. I believe the figures are of his sister and a niece who accompanied him on some of his travels in the Alps.

I was fortunate to see many of Sargent’s watercolors — including this one and others from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston — in a show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2013. Just knocked me out. Wow.


Ivan Endogurov

Ivan Endogurov, landscape
Ivan Endogurov was a Russian painter active in the late 19th century. He initially entered the study of law at St Petersburgh University, but after taking private lessons in painting he changed to that pursuit full time, concentrating on landscape.

I couldn’t find much in the way of available image resources for Endogurov, but there is enough to be intrigued by his subject matter and handling.


Eye Candy for today: Corot Fontainebleau landscape

Forest of Fontainebleau, Jean-Baptiste-Camille

Link is to zoomable image on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; Original is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Corot entered this painting in the Paris Salon of 1846, and it became the first officially recognized pure landscape in French painting — without historical or mythological subject or other noble human activity as was traditionally required.

Corot based this studio work on location studies in the forest of Fontainebleau, where he had been painting for some 20 years.

His work there paved the way for the plein air paintungs of the Barbizon school, and later, Monet and the other Impressionists.