The Metropolitan Museum of Art is as iconic as the Louvre, London’s National Gallery and the Vatican museums. While the Met has become known for its beautiful architecture and collections, few visitors—or even lifelong New Yorkers—know the full story. Here are ten things you didn’t know about the museum.
The Met has moved on up, twice.
Initially the Met occupied a modest brownstone located on Fifth Avenue between West 53rd and West 54th streets when it opened on April 13, 1870. The Met then briefly occupied the Douglas Mansion at 128 West 14th Street before moving to its now landmark location on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street in 1880.
The city didn’t want it.
The city of New York was against constructing a public building within Central Park. After an intense round of negotiations, city officials granted the Met the land for construction.
The museum’s Gallery 305 is the original building.
Gallery 305, now in the middle of the museum, opened in 1880 and comprised the entire museum, before decades of expansions transformed its appearance.
You know the chief architect.
New York City architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the museum’s Beaux Arts facade and the Great Hall. He’s also the architect behind the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and a slew of famous mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, including Marble House and the Breakers.
An entire town visits the museum every day.
In 2015 the Met reached a groundbreaking 6.3 million visitors. That means that every day there are more than 17,000 visitors, the equivalent of a small town.
The American Wing’s facade used to be a bank.
In 1980 the Met connected the freestanding American Wing building with an enclosed courtyard.The facade you now see in the courtyard hails from Wall Street’s Branch Bank of the United States, demolished in the 1920s.
You’ll find art that’s nearly 8,000 times as old as the average American.
Flints from prehistoric Egypt date back to 300,000 BC—that’s 7,936.5 times as old as the median age of Americans.
There are mummies living in the museum.
Those sarcophagi aren’t all empty: Some house ancient mummies.
You can listen to the sounds of the oldest piano in existence.
Gallery 684 holds the world’s oldest piano, dating back to 1720. Italian music maker Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the instrument in 1700, and this is the earliest surviving example. You can hear it being played on the audio guide.
You can attend the Met Gala…for a price.
The Met Gala, an annual fundraising gala for the museum’s Costume Institute, is famously exclusive, attracting a few hundred of the world’s top celebrities. For a whopping $25,000, you can purchase a coveted ticket and spend the evening with the likes of Beyoncé, George Clooney and Madonna. Of course, paying the full price doesn’t guarantee that Anna Wintour, the ball’s longtime chair, will approve your request.