Clio Logo

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the United States with a permanent collection that contains more than two million works of art from all around the world. The museum opened in 1872 and is renowned for its collections which span from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East to paintings and sculptures from nearly all the European masters. The Met also maintains extensive holdings of African, Asian, Oceanic, Byzantine, and Islamic art.


  • Under the Wave off Kanagawa, also known as the Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai
  • Versace Evening dress

The Metropolitan Museum of art, located in New York City, is one out of ten of the largest art museums in the world. The main and largest building stands on the outskirts of Central Park and was built in 1871. This building contains more than two million art pieces, separating the collection into seventeen different sectors. Each sector is looked after by its own staff of curators and scholars. Four conservation departments and a scientific research department take care of the permanent artworks as well.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's earliest roots date back to 1866 in Paris, France, when a group of Americans agreed to create a "national institution and gallery of art" to bring art and art education to the American people. The lawyer John Jay, who proposed the idea, swiftly moved forward with the project upon his return to the United States from France. Under Jay's presidency, the Union League Club in New York rallied civic leaders, businessmen, artists, art collectors, and philanthropists to the cause. On April 13, 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art was incorporated, opening to the public in the Dodworth Building at 681 Fifth Avenue.

The permanent art collection within the Met Museum of Art includes works from classical antiquity (ancient Mediterranean civilizations), ancient Egypt, Europe, America, and the Modern era. Art work of African, Asian, Oceanic, Byzantine, and Islamic descent is also held there. The Museum of Costume Art merged with Met in 1937 and became its Costume Institute Department. More than 35,000 costume pieces are held within the museum, but due to the fragility they can’t display the pieces year round. Every year brings a different display theme. For example, the museum will sometimes highlight famous designer works like Coco Chanel or Versace. Other years, they will display costumes worn by famous rock stars like the Beatles or Madonna. In 1938, John D. Rockefeller bought a separate building, and named it “The Cloisters”, as a gift to the Met Museum, located Upper Manhattan. The building contains around 5,000 works of art all derived from Medieval Europe. The name comes from the five medieval French cloisters whose salvaged structures were incorporated into the building

Another interesting sector within the museum includes the collection of musical instruments. There are about 5,000 instruments from all over the world displayed there. Some of the instruments displayed include the oldest surviving piano, ancient Asian instruments, and Antonio Stradivari violins (circa 1600s). Every year, usable instruments are taken out of their displays and played by famous musicians in a concert held by the department. The Met Museum showcases the importance of art throughout our history and how it reflects each era’s experiences.


About the Met. The Met. Accessed 4/29/17. http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-museum/history-of-the-museum/main-building.