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The History of The MET

NYC - Metropolitan Museum - Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court

The History of The MET

The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City commonly referred to as “the Met”, is the largest art museum in the United States. Its official history began when the New York State passed the Metropolitan Museum of Art an Act of Incorporation in 1870 for:”

“establishing and maintaining … a Museum and Library of Art, of encouraging and developing the Study of the Fine Arts, and the application of Art … and to that end of furnishing popular instruction and recreations”.

Later Legislation added the requirement that the Museums collections:

“shall be kept open and accessible to the public free of all charge throughout the year.”

The reason for this additional legislation was because founders wanted to make art and art education accessible to all the people.  The guiding founders included businesspeople as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day.

The museum first opened in 1872, after negotiations with the City of New York in which the Met was granted the land on Fifth Avenue, and between 79th and 85th Street Transverse Roads in Central Park. A red-brick and stone building was designed in the High Victorian Gothic style. Within 20 years, a new architectural plan engulfing the first building was constructed. Since that time, many additions have been made including the distinctive Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue facade, Great Hall, and Grand Stairway.

The wings that completed the Fifth Avenue facade were completed in the 1910s followed in time by new wings and renovations including the American Wing, Greek and Roman Court, and recently opened Islamic Wing.

The Met now covers a length of almost 1⁄4-mile (400 m) long and with more than 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2) of floor space. These dimensions are more than 20 times the size of the original 1880 building. The museum building is a gradual accumulation of over 20 re-structures, most of which are not visible from the exterior. The museum’s main building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The City of New York owns the museum building and contributes to some of the costs.

In 2018, the museum announced that the century-old policy of free admission to the museum would be replaced by a new admission policy which would need a charge of $25 to out-of-state and foreign visitors to the museum.

(Note: The Metropolitan Opera in New York is also nicknamed “The Met” so take care to avoid confusion when discussing the Met.)

For more insights, see our book, "TREASURES of the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM of ART".

"TREASURES of the MET" E-book covers the essential highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY and provides background information to help you to appreciate its many exhibits. This book offers insights to help make the museum's many wonders more accessible and meaningful. This book covers The Met Fifth AvenueThe Met Breuer and The Met Cloisters.

Available Now

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - MET is a museum where every visit brings something new. This new book includes over 75 Chapters featuring the Treasures in the MET.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is organised into departments and this book is similarly organised into parts to reflect the departments of the MET. This book is organised as follows:

  • Introduction to the MET
  • European Paintings
  • Ancient Near Eastern Art
  • Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
  • Asian Art
  • Egyptian Art
  • European Sculpture and Decorative Arts
  • American Wing
  • Greek and Roman Art
  • Islamic Art
  • Drawings and Prints
  • Costume Institute
  • Arms and Armor
  • Medieval Art
  • The MET Cloisters Museum
  • Modern and Contemporary Art
  • Photographs
  • The MET Breuer
  • Musical Instruments


“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time,
in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald


Photo Credit: By Jean-Christophe BENOIST (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons