From about 1900 to 1960 American museums collected at the fastest rate and with the widest interests that the world has ever seen. This sweepstake ingurgitation has now pumped the sources dry and has sent prices skyrocketing for what remains, just at a time when American museum funds are falling behind the rate of general inflation. But the result is not entirely disastrous, for it forces us to take stock of what we raked together bit by bit as chances offered, and to catalogue the holdings that have grown almost without our being aware of the growth. While a few excellent catalogues have been published, mostly by the Morgan Library, the Frick Collection, and this Museum, American collections are still so little known that we ourselves in the museums are unaware of treasures in nearby museums, and are sometimes unaware of remarkable things in other departments of our very own buildings. It would be useful if all American museums would pool their resources for countrywide surveys of some scarcer specialties like, say, German drawings, Islamic glass, Greek jewelry, or Romanesque sculpture.
In this catalogue Mary L. Myers publishes a selection of the Metropolitan Museum's drawings for stage sets, furniture, silver, architecture, and many other forms of applied art. To show these practical drawings in use, she has selected many that are projects for known works of art. Yet however utilitarian in intention, these drawings often achieve the perfection that is sometimes attainable in the decorative arts, but never in the more complex overtones of the expressive arts.