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The Museum and Its History

The Museum from Fifth Avenue, 1880. Stereograph. Gift of Herbert Mitchell, 1995 (1995.114.2).
History

Architecture

Facts

Mission Statement

Contact Information

History

How can I find out about the history of the Museum?
The Museum's website contains several sources. In the "Press Room" section, please see the two press releases A Brief History of the Museum and An Overview of the Museum. The "FAQs for Kids" section of the site also contains A Brief History of the Met. The Met and the New Millennium: A Chronicle of the Past and a Blueprint of the Future, by Metropolitan Director Emeritus Philippe de Montebello, is available for purchase in the Museum's bookshops. The Works of Art area of the website contains information about the content and formation of the Met's collection.

Who founded the Museum, and in what year?
The Museum was founded by a group of American businessmen, artists, and thinkers in 1870.

Was Central Park the original location of the Museum?
No. When the Museum first opened in 1872, it was located at 681 Fifth Avenue. In 1873, it moved to the Douglas Mansion, at 128 West 14th Street. The Museum moved to its current location, in Central Park, in 1880.

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Architecture

Who were the original architects of the Museum?
Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mold designed the Museum's first permanent home in Central Park—a red-brick neo-Gothic structure.

Does the building facade appear today as it did in 1880?
No. The original facade was in the Gothic Revival Style. The present facade and entrance were completed in 1926. Part of the original facade can be viewed from the Robert Lehman Wing looking toward the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts galleries.

Do any architectural spaces in the Museum's Main Building still reflect the work of McKim, Mead, and White, the prominent firm of the early 20th century?
Yes. For information, see The Metropolitan Museum of Art: An Architectural History (a special edition of the Metropolitan's Bulletin) available in the Museum's bookshops.

Is there a publication devoted to the Museum's architecture?
Yes. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: An Architectural History, by Morrison H. Heckscher, is available in the Museum's bookshops.

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Facts

What is the Metropolitan's average annual attendance?
Over the past several years, attendance at the Museum (including the Main Building and The Cloisters) has averaged more than four million.

Approximately how many works of art are in the Museum's collection?
More than two million. For further information on the collection, see An Overview of the Museum and Works of Art.

What are the oldest works of art in the Museum's collection?
Archeulian flints from Deir El Bahri in Egypt, dating to the Lower Paleolithic period (ca. 300,000–75,000 B.C.), are the oldest objects in the Museum's collection. The Museum is constantly rotating its work on display, so ask for the location of these flints at the Information Desk in the Great Hall. For further information about the Museum's collection of ancient Egyptian art, see Egyptian Art.

Is Michelangelo's Angel—referred to in the classic children's novel by E. L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler—in the Museum's collection?
No; in fact, the Angel statue never existed. But the Museum does own a drawing by this great artist, which is included in the Drawings and Prints section of Works of Art. For more information and answers to questions about From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, see FAQs for Kids and the MuseumKids "Mixed-Up Files" issue.

Who owns the works of art in the Museum?
The Museum is a nonprofit corporation, and the governing body of the corporation holds the works of art in trust.

Who owns the building?
The City of New York owns the Museum building and the property on which it is located.

How many square feet does the Metropolitan building occupy?
Approximately two million square feet.

How can I learn about new and future developments at the Museum?
You can subscribe to Met News, an email newsletter sent to subscribers on a regular basis that contains news and information about the Museum and its website. For information on how to subscribe to this and other free email newsletters, see My Met Museum.

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Mission Statement

What is the Metropolitan's mission statement?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded on April 13, 1870, "to be located in the City of New York, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said city a Museum and library of art, of encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, of furnishing popular instruction."1
This statement of purpose has guided the Museum for 130 years.

Today the Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art reaffirm the statement of purpose and supplement it with the following statement of mission:

The mission of The Metropolitan Museum of Art is to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all in the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards.

September 12, 2000

1Charter of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, State of New York, Laws of 1870, Chapter 197, passed April 13, 1870 and amended L.1898, ch. 34; L. 1908, ch. 219.

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Contact Information

See Contact Information.

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