Canada geese tour the Norton Simon Museum

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They didn’t have memberships, but when a gaggle of Canada geese came knocking at the front door of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena the other day, staff let them in. It was pretty clear that the two migrating families with their young goslings in tow were trying to get to the pond in the museum’s lovely garden, just across the lobby, and didn’t have designs on the Raphael Madonna, any of the Indian bronze Shivas or the numerous Van Gogh paintings in the galleries. And since the museum wasn’t yet open, the short journey could be accomplished with considerable ease.

According to a museum spokesman, the geese were first spotted crossing Colorado Boulevard during a harrowing rush-hour escapade Thursday morning. How they knew a pond was on the other side of the street behind the Simon’s south wing is a question I’ll leave others to answer. But once safely across the busy boulevard, attempts to gently herd them around the building to the pond didn’t work. So a mad dash across the lobby, past the Ellsworth Kelly painting and the Henry Moore bronze, was the only solution.


Several staff members recorded the unusual little journey with cameras, and the results were posted the next day on the museum’s Facebook page. Since then, museum visitors have begun to show up in search of the fine feathered guests.

That’s causing reasonable concern at the museum. Migrating geese are determined birds, especially when protecting their offspring. (Goslings often stay with their mothers for a full year.) So for the safety of all, the museum is cautioning that the geese should be left undisturbed. And because an art museum isn’t really set up to care for wildlife, steps are being taken to relocate them to a more suitable way station on their voyage north for the summer -- or, given the goslings’ youth, until they’re grown up. The museum hopes to have that accomplished soon.

Somewhere in here there’s a place for Barnett Newman’s famous quip: ‘Aesthetics is for the artist like ornithology is for the birds.’ Whatever the case, good for the Norton Simon Museum for taking such care.

--Christopher Knight (