I love the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, really I do, but I've never been treated in a less welcoming fashion anywhere else. Museums all over the world have treated me as if they were glad I was there; the Dixon staff has frequently treated me like they were doing me a favor by letting me come. That's not to say it happens every time, but it happens often enough for me to notice that it feels different to me to go to their museum than it feels to go to any other.
A few days ago I bought an e-membership online, and I went by the Dixon on my way home to try it out and see the sculptures before that exhibit closes. There was no one at the little booth where one usually pays, but I noticed that it was not quite noon and there's no admission charge before noon on Saturdays. I went into the museum building, and the woman at the desk peeled off a sticker and gave it to me to put on. She said, "It's free on Saturdays between 10 and noon, and [looks pointedly at her watch] there are a few minutes left 'til noon." I got the distinct impression she thought I was somehow cheating by coming so late during the free period.
I told her I had come by to see if my e-membership had gone through ok but that there had been no one at the booth outside. She checked my name against her list and didn't find it. When she found out it had been 3 days since I'd bought the membership she said that it could take 2-3 weeks. 2-3 weeks? She said somebody goes through the e-memberships every so often and manually adds new names. I saw nothing at the web site to warn about this. The web site says if you buy an e-membership you get admission by showing a photo id:
e-Members receive free unlimited admission to the museum and gardens and weekly news updates via email for one year, but do not receive any other general Dixon member benefits. E-members do not receive membership cards. Please use photo ID for admission. Email address is required.My youngest son says he'll never go back no matter what they offer. He says his last good experience there was at the 1997 Dale Chihuly exhibit back when he was a child. His last visit was a disaster, with security guards threatening him with expulsion when he pulled out his cell phone to check the time. Sheesh!
I realize each time I find the staff patronizing or condescending it adds to the ill will I already feel from them, and I realize that any one occurrence is not particularly notable; but year after year of similar events does add up.
Oddly enough, the gift shop folks are always friendly.
The photo at the top of the post is from Wikipedia.