Book Tells How #1 Tourist Attraction in NYC Runs So Smoothly

In his eclectic oral portrait, MUSEUM: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Viking; On-Sale: June 25, 2007; ISBN: 978-0-670-03861-9; $27.95), award-winning journalist Danny Danziger explores the inner workings of one of the world’s premier museums and introduces us to a handful of fascinating people who keep things beautifully afloat.

In MUSEUM, Danziger takes us on our own V.I.P. tour of this treasure-filled place, beyond the regal halls into the minds and hearts of the people who make the Greek and Roman Wing, the Musical Instruments Department, the Costume Collection, and the American Wing, possible. We meet the art collectors, curators of all kinds, the head of concerts and lectures; we even meet Remco van Vliet, the creator of the gorgeous floral arrangements that brighten the museum.

So, how do works like the famous Duccio end up at the Met? Who makes the decisions? Who pays for it all? Danziger provides us with an intimate look at how people like Keith Christiansen, curator of European Paintings, acquire their dream paintings (the Duccio is his). Danziger explores why people like Annette de la Renta and Lulu C. Wang devote so much time and money enriching the life of the Met.

But it’s not just curators and trustees who keep the Met alive, as Danziger posits in MUSEUM. What kind of person enjoys greeting tourists in the Great Hall day in and day out after nearly three decades? That would probably drive anyone crazy but after talking with Robert Bethea, Jr., Danziger illustrates that Robert loves his job. What inspires people like Lorraine Chevallier to commute an hour-and-forty-five-minutes each way from New Jersey, year after year, to wait tables at the Met? And with so many people visiting the Met everyday, there must be a lot of bathrooms, right? How many are there exactly and who’s in charge? Through Danziger’s astute lens, George Cuesta, maintainer in the plumbing shop, tells us how it is. Also, has anyone ever broken into the Met? Have paintings or artifacts ever been stolen or vandalized? In MUSEUM we meet John Barelli, Chief Security Officer who discusses the security measures he and his staff of over six hundred implement on a day-to-day basis. We also learn that he’s met every president since Nixon.

As a person with just the right touch for getting the bon mot out of an unlikely subject, in MUSEUM, Danziger draws the human element that makes the Met thrive.

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