Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  288 ratings  ·  71 reviews
An ?intriguing? oral portrait of the people behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art ("Entertainment Weekly")
Using more than fifty interviews, award-winning writer Danny Danziger creates a fascinating mosaic of the people behind New York's magnificent Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the aristocratic, acerbic director of the museum, Philippe de Montebello, to the curators w...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Penguin Books (first published 2007)
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Karen
Visiting The Met was one of my favorite activities while at college in the NYC area, and this book makes me want to go back soon. The book’s concept is simple; the author interviewed people associated with the museum (mostly employees and trustees) and then told their stories in the first-person, each in their own chapter of usually three to five pages. So it’s an easy read that one can do in short spurts. (The only annoyance was the person’s “title” was only included in the table of contents an...more
Pam
This book is choppy as a result of Danny Danziger's format which was simplistic; he interviewed various staff members, let them talk about whatever they wanted, and used each as a chapter in the book. There are great interviews, for which I said, "Wow!", and then there were complete duds. Danziger never really introduced the individuals so it often took a while to figure out what role the individual played. The individuals did not appear to be organized in any way so the interviews do not flow i...more
Ursula
It's a safe bet that most people drawn to this book are fans of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I love the Met and was curious to learn more about it. As other reviewers have mentioned, this book is not about the Met per se; it instead focuses on the people who work there. Even still, the book has tons of potential. Unfortunately many of the chapters fall flat; far too many of the chapters end with something along the lines of "I still can't believe I get paid to work at the Met." I imagine...more
Liz

As an art history major in college in New York, who spend quite a bit of my time at the MET the book was bittersweet as I loved reading about the details of the museums operations, but it also made me sad that I had never been successful in that field of scholarship. The book also shines a bit of light on the fact that without a pedigree it is really almost impossible to get into the MET and most of these curators grew up with their parents Picasso's and Giotto's as part of the collections decor...more
David
As noted in other reviews (“Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon” and “We Bought a Zoo”), I am a fan of behind-the-scenes books. There’s always more than meets the eye to any experience, and it’s fascinating to discover layers of meaning that enhance an accepted, public, sometimes superficial view.

This book adds a human dimension to one of the great cultural centers of the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It consists of the personal reflections of...more
Sesana
I debated over the rating to give this book. On one hand, I ended up really liking it. On the other, it also turned out to not exactly be what's on the tin.

I went in expecting precisely what the subtitle promise: a behind the scenes look at the Met. And I got that, sort of. Actually, the book is based off a series of interviews with people who work at or for the museum. And they do talk about their jobs, or many of them do. Some of them veer so far off into the personal that they don't approach...more
Katherine
This book is an account of how the Metropolitan Museum operates, told in individual, first person accounts by people who work there. I love the concept of the book - looking behind the scenes at the Museum through the eyes of the people who run it seemed to me an entirely appealing - and fascinating - exercise. But the book has some flaws. First and foremost, the format doesn't make a lot of sense. Essentially, the author interviewed all these people, and then took out his questions so that the...more
Amedeo
Though I have actually visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art more than a thousand times, my original fascination for the place has never worn off. Not talking about the artworks here but the whole institution from stem to stern.
The good thing about this book is that one hears from people on many levels and in a variety of capacities that contribute to the whole operation. For the outsider, there is much insight into the concerns and responsibilities of museum employess. Even if one is a curat...more
Rachel
On one hand, this is a book I wish I had written. The author interviewed a range of people who work at the Met and compiled the results into a book. I love museums and I love oral histories, so really, what could be better. Unfortunately, he didn't do a very interesting job with it. There is no analysis, and he totally removes himself from the interviews. He emphasizes how passionate and enthusiastic everyone is, which gets annoying and meaningless pretty quickly. Aside from one interview with a...more
Christia
Reading this made me want to go back to the Met - immediately. I've only been once, and that was for a brief afternoon, during which time I went on a search for William, the blue hippo. I remember being impressed at how much information the (presumed) security guard gave me about the little figurine - and being amazed at the size of the museum. This is not so much a history of the museum as it is a series of interviews with some of the hundreds of people who work there (from curators and directo...more
Kyla
I read this quick-hurry-fast, my equivalent of a thriller I guess - just what do those curators do all day anyway? And though the subject was interesting and he interviewed a wide range of people - from trustees to security to the flower arranger - the way he presented it was so odd. A series of interviews, one after another. The person's title was only reflected in the front table of contents so you had to keep flipping back and forth. And in an interview, the people would give a very concise v...more
Erica
I thoroughly enjoyed this book -- it is result of a series of interviews conducted by the author of staff members at the Met. It is a fascinating glimpse (emphasis on glimpse) into the inner workings of this singular institution. However, this book was written with the blessing of the Museum and no doubt there was content/editorial control taking place behind the scenes. Those wanting less of a series of love letters and more of an in-depth and critical look at the institution will have to look...more
Kimberly
I purchased this book not long after my trip to NYC two years ago, which included a too-brief visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I got partway through it before becoming distracted and setting it aside, as so often happens to me when reading nonfiction -- even really good nonfiction. Interesting behind-the-scenes look at a wonderful institution.

I thought I'd add that the structure of this book -- interviews with many individuals -- makes it feel rather disjointed and less interesting, perh...more
Aubrey
An interview with a variety of workers at the Met; getting to hear about peoples passions; learning what goes into making such an amazing place function - I learned a lot from this book.

The interviews I remember most vividly are the the ones with the curators who discussed the Tiffany collection, one of the sculpture collections, the woman in charge of retail, someone on the board, and the police officer in charge of security.

What surprised me the most was the different backgrounds these people...more
Nick
An interesting look at the Met, as told to the author in chapters by various ppl associated with the Museum. Some of the most interesting ones are the curators, who talk alot about thier passion for a particular type of art that may seem strange to us, the average museum goer (I like looking at the weapons and armor too, but your telling me thats your whole life?). The other ppl who are really fascinating are the ultra rich donors and collectors, who discuss their gifts and collections in ways t...more
JulieK
Really enjoyed this. I was expecting more of a narrative, but it turned out to be excerpts from interviews with 50+ Met staff members, including curators, cleaners, trustees, and security guards. Reading their own words about what it's like to work there was really interesting. At first I was a little disappointed that the interviews were heavily weighted toward curators, but I ended up feeling it was a good thing, as reading their musings about the collections under their care was a good way to...more
Margaret Sankey
Danziger interviewed an assortment of museum employees, who reveal their love for the institution and the works of art within it--and he only puts their job titles in the table of contents, so after you read a beautiful speech about "the effect the Cassats have on my life" you find out that the person speaking is a security guard, or a waitress in the cafe, or the professional merchandizer who runs the gift shops. Interesting look at what is much more a community and national treasure than a wor...more
Katie
This is a totally easy, insightful read. Made up of a series of interviews with various people at the museum, it really makes you want to visit again and again. The passion of all the employees, from the security to the janitors to the president and curators, is inspiring. If I had any qualm with it, it's just that it would have been interesting to hear a bit more about art politics and how it plays a role in how the museum is run; that the inner workings would be described in a more complex way...more
Contrary Magazine
Read Laura M. Browning's Contrary review:
[http://www.contrarymagazine.com/Contr...]
"Even before page one, it’s clear that Danny Danziger knows museums: Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is dedicated to his mother, Gigi Guggenheim Danziger. One might expect that such a pedigree would lead Danziger to pen a reverent ode to one of the world’s great museums. And in a sense, he does—but his reverence is directed toward people as much as objets d’art, and the result is equal...more
Cody VC
The variety of interview subjects is a big plus. The fact that some of them veer away from the museum itself (to speak about their field, their life, what have you) tells the reader things about that person, so that aspect didn't bother me. Would have liked to know what the questions were, though, even if we were only given the first one, so we could see how they got onto such-and-such a subject, and there wasn't any organization in the order of interviews, in theme or hierarchy or whatever - th...more
Noelle
Absolutely love this book, not only because it's about one of my favorite musuems but it's the little stories behind the scenes that's so awesome. I liked how the people that were interviewed, mentioned their absolute favorite pieces in the entire museum.. I am definitely putting those items on my list of what to see. Like the oldest piano in the world.. just a few things that were truly amazing.. and they all seem to feel blessed to be working there..
Heila
Interviews of people who work for the Met. From the boardroom to the bathroom. Includes the Head of Construction, Curators, Trustees and my favorite the Maintainer of the Plumbing Shop. Some people get really, really into talking about their "area," like Arms & Armor - which is understandable, but if it wasn't my interest I skimmed through those faster. It's cool to experience the people's personalities and how that meshes with the art and their experience of working there in all these diffe...more
Ryn
Wonderful story-telling by dozens of the very special folks who make the Met what it is. Two particularly nice touches: folks are arranged in the book alphabetically by last name-- not by any hierarchy. And each person's title is only listed in the table of contents. So, the interviews themselves are more like a series of piano etudes than a catalog of professional bios. Personal, human, lovely views of a world-leading organization.

Might make sense to do this for other mission-driven organizatio...more
Raganeauchic
This is a great book and enjoyed every individual story from the florist to the trustee who donated $25 million. The author gives the name and title of each person in the table of contents at the front, but then at each chapter, only lists their name. You have to keep flipping back to the front of the book to remember what exactly they do for the Met. He could have removed the silly quote/excerpt under their name at each chapter and put their title. I'm not so interested in the author's opinion...more
Mike
A Studs Terkel approach--he compiles about fifty interviews from which which he has redacted (is that the correct word?) his questions so it flows more smoothly. It's fascinating. The book is about the people who make the Metropolitan Museum of Art run smoothly, from the custodians to the Director. I visited the MET a month or two ago (or was it more recent than that?) and was blown away by it. This book makes it all the more intersting, real, and impressive.

Michael Krakovskiy
Maybe Danny Danziger is not Studs Terkel, but the subject matter is great and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I was a bit irked by the quotes that the author chose to describe the people instead of just simply giving their job title and age (every time he's so shocked that people retain their accents after living in America for many years) , and maybe the narrative sounds a bit too smoothed out and edited. It's ok though, I'd read another 50 or 100 of these.
Deb
"This was an intriguing take on learning about a museum - examining not its collections, but its people. And some of the most interesting stories came from the non-curators. The perspective of the head of fire safety, the florist, the docent - all fascinating. Though of course the fixation of each curator on their area of specialty was interesting as well. Very enjoyable - should make my next visit even better."
Abby Warren
I loved this book! Anyone who enjoys going to museums...any museum would enjoy this book. It's funny and can be read in pieces because each interviewee is like its own short story. I want to go back and re-read it so that I can mark the different pieces that each of the workers at The Met like the most, or would save if the building were burning. What a great trip to the museum that would be!
Lisa
I love a good ethnography, but this doesn't quite fall into that category. Out was interesting to read excerpts from a handful of the thousands of Met employees, but something was missing. It just wasn't as compelling as it could have been. Very interesting how so many people interviewed come from wealth and/or museum families. Not sure if that is representative of the employees overall, but maybe.
Steve
As an employee at an art museum, I really enjoyed reading this first-hand look at the people behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although some of the curators are quite dull, I enjoyed seeing the perspective of several other Met employees such as the security guard, tour guide, trustee and florist. After reading the book, I want to make sure I visit the Met the next time I am in NYC.
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