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Tom Hoving’s Metropolitan Museum, in His Own Words


After photographing the jacket of the late Thomas Hoving‘s Metropolitan Museum memoir, “Making the Mummies Dance,” to illustrate my remembrance yesterday, I decided to leaf through the book, to relive through his eyes that tumultuous era.

I came upon Hoving’s own description (p. 369) of what his 10-year reign (1967-77) as the Met’s director was all about:

My goal was to make the Met a people’s cultural paradise, full of fun and celebration, an open-book library of the visual arts of the highest possible excitement and controversy, an institution that would stand for the best of popular instruction.

I also wanted the place to be efficient, crisp, decisive and, above all, intellectually honest, telling the truth about the works of art in the collections and continually striving to show the public levels and gradations of quality—the good, the better, the best.

And what did he want to be remembered for (p. 370)?

Mostly the fact that the place is now owned by the younger people and the general public, not the stuffy elite nor pseudoscholars. And the fact that the museum is jammed and that it really is the number one tourist attraction in the city.

Those goals, largely realized, still stand.

No statement, at this writing, has been issued by the Met itself, but perhaps significantly, “Today’s Featured Work of Art” on the museum’s home page is this:


Sally Miller, “Mourning Picture,” ca. 1811

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