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Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  495 Ratings  ·  81 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
ebook, 304 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Penguin Books (first published 2007)
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Oct 09, 2014 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I recently visited NY for a brief vacation. It was my first time back in the city for almost a decade, but I didn't want to overplan it or run around being a crazy tourist. I wanted to relax, observe the city, and absorb the East Coast perspective. And of course I wanted to wander around the Met. However, even if you are a museum person, the Met can be overwhelming and exhausting, and the crowds can be oppressive. So how do you find a slant, a way of seeing, that translates into a memorable expe ...more
Aug 19, 2009 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, 2009
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
Feb 21, 2016 Carolien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I quite liked this book because the concept was simple - providing short descriptions of the various kinds of people working at the museum. However, because there are no introductions of which job they have at the beginning of each chapter, I had to go back to the index to find that out which was slightly annoying. However, I loved reading all the different interviews and found the very personal way in which the interviewees were presented very interesting and inspiring.
Feb 18, 2017 Kelli rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I appreciate the democracy with which Danziger approached this collection of interviews but I don't think more than one janitorial/maintenance crew chapter was needed. Due to the short length of each chapter, one couldn't get into the interesting "behind the scenes" details of some of the more intriguing people that work at the museum, which was highly disappointing. As far as I can tell, Danziger did not give his interviewees any parameters as to what they should discuss and so we are rewarded ...more
Sep 14, 2013 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 10, 2008 Amedeo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 24, 2011 Sesana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2013 Ursula rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Barbara Meyer
This book a series of interviews with indiividuals associated with the Met, and I expected to like it more than I did. The interviews are essentially monologs, with little or no editorial or background content other that what the interviewees provide. They are not introduced at the beginning of each chapter so takes awhile to adjust to a short lag time where you don't know if you're reading about an electrician or a trustee.

Still, I appreciated the mix - a waitress, plumber, curators, donors, d
Sep 12, 2007 Christia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 23, 2009 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

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
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
Jul 28, 2008 Kyla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2013 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 25, 2014 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, nonfiction
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
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
Jun 14, 2008 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2007 Aubrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Contrary Magazine
Read Laura M. Browning's Contrary review:
"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
Aug 04, 2008 Raganeauchic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 05, 2010 Heila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Mar 05, 2010 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, art
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
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
Jul 13, 2008 Ryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Cody VC
Nov 07, 2011 Cody VC rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
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
"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."
Jan 07, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 22, 2015 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost gave this five stars, but i kept wanting more detail on what all these staff members of the museum actually do. You get bits and pieces of that, but not enough for my curiosity, But it was really fun to get a sense of the wide range of backgrounds and personalities that keep the Met running, and just how many people and different roles that takes. Some of the people were totally delightful.
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