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Museum Archives

The Archives collect, organize, and preserve in perpetuity the corporate records and official correspondence of the Museum, make the collection accessible, and provide research support in order to further an informed and enduring understanding of the Museum's history.

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In the Footsteps of the Monuments Men: Traces from the Archives at the Metropolitan Museum

Melissa Bowling, Associate Archivist, Museum Archives; and James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014

During the last years of World War II, Allied forces made a concerted effort to protect artworks, archives, and monuments of historical and cultural significance as they advanced across Europe. They also worked, during the war and after the German surrender, to secure artworks looted by the Nazis and restitute them to their rightful owners. Approximately 345 men and women from thirteen nations were charged with this task; most were volunteers in the Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives program, or MFAA, established in late 1943 under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies. Popularly known as "Monuments Men," their ranks included museum curators, art historians, and others trained to identify and care for artworks subject to harsh conditions.

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This Weekend in Met History: October 20

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013

One hundred years ago this weekend, on October 20, 1913, Robert W. de Forest was unanimously elected the fifth president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. De Forest had been involved with the Museum since its inception in 1870 and had served on its Board of Trustees since 1889, first as a Trustee and later as its secretary and vice president.

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Sublime Embrace:
Concerts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, June 21, 2013

Ninety-five years ago the halls of The Metropolitan Museum of Art resounded with the sounds of music, as the first public concert was held within the Museum's galleries.

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This Weekend in Met History: March 17

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013

One hundred years ago this weekend, on March 17, 1913, The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired its first painting by the French Post-Impressionist master Paul Cézanne. The Museum purchased Cézanne's View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph at the groundbreaking International Exhibition of Modern Art, popularly known as the Armory Show.

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Today in Met History: March 1

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013

One hundred and forty years ago today, on March 1, 1873, The Metropolitan Museum of Art signed a lease for the Douglas Mansion, located at 128 West 14th Street in Manhattan. The rapidly expanding museum had outgrown its original location in the Dodworth Building in midtown and was in need of additional gallery space.

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Today in Met History: February 4

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013

On Monday, February 4, 1963, a unique visitor entered The Metropolitan Museum of Art and remained in the building for the next three and a half weeks. Over one million people clamored to see her during her stay at the Museum, and the press reported extensively on her visit. To the great pleasure of the Metropolitan and its visitors, the Mona Lisa—perhaps the best known painting in the world—had come to the Museum as a loan from the Louvre.

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The Devoted Collector: William H. Riggs and the Department of Arms and Armor

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Friday, May 9, 1913, the ship La France steamed into New York Harbor carrying William Henry Riggs, a wealthy American and lifelong collector of arms and armor. Riggs was returning from France to his native city for the first time in over forty years in order to donate his impressive collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accompanying Riggs was Bashford Dean, curator of the Metropolitan Museum's recently established Department of Arms and Armor and a well-known collector in his own right. Dean had spent close to a decade trying to persuade Riggs to give his collection to the Museum. Now, as a result of Dean's efforts, the Museum's new Arms and Armor department was set to acquire one of the greatest collections of its day.

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This Weekend in Met History: November 24

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

One hundred and thirty-seven years ago this weekend, on November 24, 1875, the American businessman and philanthropist William Backhouse Astor died. Just three years earlier, Astor had been responsible for a milestone in Metropolitan Museum of Art history: donating to the newly established institution its first work of art made by an American, the marble statue California by Hiram Powers.

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This Weekend in Met History: October 28

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, October 26, 2012

October 28, 2012, marks the centennial of the election of Edward S. Harkness as Trustee and Fellow for Life of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A lifelong philanthropist estimated to have donated one hundred million dollars to charity, Harkness spent twenty-eight years working on the Museum's behalf. A number of his gifts are among the most beloved and visited works of art within the Met's galleries.

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Today in Met History: March 20

Anna Bernhard, Archives Assistant, Museum Archives

Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

One hundred and forty years ago today, on March 20, 1872, the City of New York's Department of Public Parks designated the area between 79th and 84th Streets in Central Park as the future site of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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This Weekend in Met History: February 20

James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, February 17, 2012

One hundred and forty years ago, on February 20, 1872, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors to the public for the first time.

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Digitizing the Libraries' Collections: An Introduction

Robyn Fleming, Assistant Museum Librarian, Thomas J. Watson Library; and Dan Lipcan, Assistant Museum Librarian, Thomas J. Watson Library

Posted: Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Museum Library, authorized by the Museum's 1870 charter and formally established in 1880, is one of the world's great collections of art historical research materials. However, thousands of printed books in the Library and other departments of the Museum are deteriorating rapidly through heavy use, acidic paper, or both. In some cases, important information has already been lost.

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Today in Met History: December 13

Julie Tran Lê, Library Associate, The Irene Lewisohn Costume Reference Library

Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sixty-five years ago today, on December 13, 1946, The Costume Institute's first exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum opened to the public.

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Today in Met History: November 15

Rebecca Weintraub, Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, on November 15, 1886, The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Board of Trustees officially approved the establishment of the institution's first curatorial departments—the Department of Paintings, Department of Sculpture, and Department of Casts.

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Today in Met History: July 15

Melissa Bowling, Associate Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011

Ninety years ago today, on July 15, 1921, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its first solo exhibition of works by a female artist. The Children's World: Drawings by Florence Wyman Ivins, a group of watercolor drawings, woodcuts, and black-and-white drawings, was shown in the Education Department through November 19, 1921.

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This Weekend in Met History: July 2

Jonathan Bloom, Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011

One hundred and ten years ago this weekend, on July 2, 1901, American locomotive magnate and Metropolitan Museum of Art benefactor Jacob S. Rogers died. Unbeknownst to the Museum's staff and Trustees at the time, Rogers's death would result in the largest and most significant financial contribution to the institution until that time, and among the most important in its history.

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Today in Met History: May 31

Melissa Bowling, Associate Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One hundred and twenty years ago today, on May 31, 1891, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened to the public on a Sunday for the first time in its history. The decision to allow Sunday admission followed nearly twenty years of debate on the subject.

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Today in Met History: April 6

Anna Bernhard, Archives Assistant, Museum Archives

Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eighty-five years ago today, on April 6, 1926, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened the "Pompeian Court," a new gallery space for classical art, to the public. Located in the Museum's recently constructed southern wing ("Wing K") designed by McKim, Mead and White, this gallery space was the company's last for the Metropolitan since becoming its official architect in 1904.

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This Weekend in Met History: April 2

Barbara File, Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011

Sixty-five years ago this weekend, on April 2, 1946, The Metropolitan Museum of Art held a special ceremony inaugurating its seventy-fifth anniversary. One of the highlights of the day was a presentation honoring General Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his oversight of the repatriation of artworks stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

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Today in Met History: March 28

Adrianna Del Collo, Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Monday, March 28, 2011

One hundred and forty years ago today, The Metropolitan Museum of Art made its first purchase of works of art—a group of 174 European old master paintings that became known as the "Purchase of 1871." William T. Blodgett, a founding member and Trustee of the Museum, facilitated the acquisition.

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This Weekend in Met History: February 6

James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011

On February 6, 1871, a committee of the Board of Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art discussed the plan that led to the construction of the Museum's first building at its current site on the east side of New York's Central Park.

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This Weekend in Met History: January 1

James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2010

Forty years ago this weekend, on January 1, 1971, The Metropolitan Museum of Art first distributed admission buttons, replacing the envelope-sized, two-color tickets that had been used during a transitional period in 1970.

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Today in Met History: December 20

James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Monday, December 20, 2010

Thirty-five years ago today, on December 20, 1975, United States President Gerald R. Ford signed into law the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Act (PDF), which gave the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities the authority to insure international exhibitions that traveled from overseas to U.S. museums. This legislation was a watershed moment in the history of art exhibitions in the United States, making it possible for museums around the world to collaborate with U.S. institutions on traveling loan shows while minimizing insurance costs to the participating institutions.

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This Weekend in Met History: November 21

Melissa Bowling, Associate Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2010

On November 21, 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art accessioned its first work of art—a Roman marble sarcophagus found in 1863 at Tarsus in Cilicia (modern southern Turkey). This finely worked but unfinished sarcophagus came to the Museum as a gift from J. Abdo Debbas, the American vice consul at Tarsus. Debbas, a native of the province of Adana, Turkey, served in the United States Department of State there until 1882.

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This Weekend in Met History: November 14

Barbara File, Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2010

Forty years ago this weekend, on November 14, 1970, the exhibition Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was the last in a series of five major exhibitions organized over the course of eighteen months (October 1969–February 1971) in celebration of the Museum's centennial.

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Today in Met History: October 31

Adrianna Del Collo, Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Sunday, October 31, 2010

One hundred years ago today, Edward Robinson, curator of classical art and assistant director at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, was named the Museum's third director. Known for his broad knowledge, connoisseurship, and professionalism, he was a logical choice to replace the accomplished Sir Casper Purdon Clarke, who had reluctantly resigned from his duties after a long struggle with declining health.

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Today in Met History: October 18

James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Monday, October 18, 2010

On October 18, 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Luigi Palma di Cesnola urged the Museum's Trustees to create an art library that would help fulfill the institution's educational mission. The Museum's original 1870 New York State charter had specifically committed the new institution to "establishing and maintaining . . . a museum and library of art."

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Today in Met History: September 14

Barbara File, Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010

INDIA!, an exhibition of the art of India from the fourteenth through the nineteenth century, opened on this day in 1985 as part of a nationwide Festival of India jointly organized by the Government of India and the Indo-U.S. Sub-commission on Education and Culture.

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Today in Met History: July 19

Melissa Bowling, Associate Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Monday, July 19, 2010

One hundred years ago today, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened the doors of its library's new home to art historians, students, and the general public.

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Today in Met History: June 12

James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Saturday, June 12, 2010

Eighty-five years ago today, on June 12, 1925, The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased a collection of medieval sculpture and architectural fragments from George Grey Barnard (1863–1938), a prominent American sculptor and collector. This acquisition formed the nucleus of what would become The Cloisters, the branch of the Museum located in Northern Manhattan and devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.

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Today in Met History: April 13

James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One hundred forty years ago today, on April 13, 1870, the Legislature of the State of New York granted an act of incorporation that formally established The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The new institution was charged with "encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of the arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, furnishing popular instruction and recreation."

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Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.