I've visited lots of museums. All the way from the world's smallest Picasso museum (Buitrago del Lozoya) to the giant Louvre Museum (Paris). And lots more in between. But there is only one museum that can be called "The Museum" and that's the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
What makes the Met great is not just its physical size, nor the size of its collection of over two and a half million works, but the fact that it has everything. So varied and complete is the permanent collection, that it seems like many small museums in one big building. And, as proclaimed by the giant banners in front of the museum, there are always three or four blockbuster exhibitions as well.
When a friend from France, also an artist, visited New York, the one thing his family wanted to see was the Met. He and his son wanted to see the Egyptian collection. They thought it would take perhaps half an hour, but it took far longer. Their jaws dropped when the saw the complete Temple of Dendur, in a new wing of the museum that was added just to house this gift from Egypt.
Lots of museums restrict you from taking pictures. Not the Met. They let you take pictures of just about anything except, sometimes, the works in special exhibits where the art is on loan, but this is very seldom.
As a New Yorker, I spent many happy hours visiting the Met, and many of my favorite pictures were taken there. But four years ago, I moved to Northern Virginia. I may never see the Met again. I still can drive to DC, where the museums are free, and there's the beauty of living in the country. All in all a pretty good trade.
I think that the Met is the world's most important art museum. Their physical space is second to none. Their web site, however, could stand some improvement. While it is large and impressive, it does not always do justice to showing off the museum's many treasures on the world of the Internet.
I will be examining the Met's web site in greater detail in future articles.