Hidden Gems: Metropolitan Museum Research Library | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Hidden Gems: Metropolitan Museum Research Library

March 22, 2012

Hidden Gems: Metropolitan Museum Research Library

Library Bookcase, from Chippendale Drawings, Vol. II
Thomas Chippendale. 1753-54, black ink, gray wash. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Right on 5th Ave and Central Park is our world famous Metropolitan Museum.  Halls, galleries and intimate rooms are filled with art treasures from around the world.  They have a great collection of 18th century art, decorative art and often have excellent 18th century-themed exhibitions.  I have reported on some of their recent exhibitions, their fabulous 18th century Parisian store front, and the breathtaking Wrightsman Galleries. 

But tucked inside, almost hidden, is a glass doorway that leads to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's main research library, the Watson Library.

Inside the library's reading room. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The library opened ten years after the museum in 1880 to support the museum and its curators.  The museum has a dozen libraries, but the Watson is the main research library with over 700,000 volumes on art and art history.  Hidden behind doors are two massive levels of books...a real labyrinth of books!

Carlo Galli Bibiena,
Foreshortening of a Library.
1728-78, Pen and brown ink, brush
and gray wash over traces of leadpoint.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
I recently had the opportunity to meet with the librarians at the Met, and they introduced me to the amazing collection of books, museum publications, encyclopedic collections, and their room of periodicals.  Their collection reflects the museum's art collection, a large emphasis on European and American art, architecture and decorative arts, ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek and Roman, Asian, Islamic art as well as resources on the museum's own history. 

All of the librarians I met were enthusiastic, welcoming and clearly love their job (who wouldn't!).  I had a tour of the library, including the available reading rooms, where you can spread out your research or relax and read a book. Blogging from the reading room? yes, yes, yes. The technology they offer library users was impressive, four high-tech scanners that are self-service and  research computer stations and printers as well as wireless for laptop/iPad users.

The registration process for becoming a library user is easy: fill out a simple form online.

Firescreen panel, Embroidered by 
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France.
 c1788, cotton embroidered
with silk. The Metropolitan
Museum of Art.
Once you have done that you will get a temporary ID number which you can use to request books immediately.  When you first visit the library, you are issued a library card.  That is it! You instantly have one of the world's most valuable collection of art resources at your fingertips! An art historian's dream.

Who uses this library? Researchers from around the world and of course the museum staff. But anyone college-aged is welcome to register as a visiting researcher and take advantage of this hidden gem!

So if you haven't visited the library at the Met before, you may want to stop in, if you can find it- hidden just to the left before the main staircase.


  1. Very interesting article :) thanks for all the info. I must say that I just love your blog ;) I have been reading it for awhile and have not decided to comment until now.

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    Have a great week!

  2. @The Regal Sim I love your stuff for the Sims, it makes me want to play again!!

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