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Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Met’s Plans for Virtual Expansion

One mandate of Thomas P. Campbell's is that the Metropolitan Museum create an online record of every work in its collection. One mandate of Thomas P. Campbell's is that the Metropolitan Museum create an online record of every work in its collection. Robert Caplin for The New York Times.

As Thomas P. Campbell begins his third year at the helm of the cultural ocean liner known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he hears fewer comparisons between himself and his illustrious predecessor Philippe de Montebello, who served as director for 31 years.

But the game of “Would Philippe Have ...?” remains irresistible at times, as it was in December, when Mr. Campbell seemed to be everywhere at Art Basel Miami Beach, the contemporary-art bacchanal that Mr. de Montebello virtually ignored. Or when Mr. Campbell, at a recent lunch with reporters, referred to the Met’s show of renowned guitars as a “teenager’s wet dream.” (The description, though probably apt, was next to impossible to imagine coming out of Mr. de Montebello’s mouth.)

The difference was certainly evident in a recent interview in the director’s office, where Mr. de Montebello used to preside with baronial aplomb behind his desk. Mr. Campbell instead pulled up a chair around a conference table and talked with boyish enthusiasm not just about art but also about the kinds of things that increasingly accompany it in 21st-century museums. The Met has created its first app, to accompany the guitar show. It is embarking on the daunting task of wiring its huge building for Wi-Fi, he said, so that patrons will eventually be able to read and watch videos about art museumwide on their phones and tablet computers. And it is venturing as never before into the rapidly evolving field of what museum administrators call “visitor engagement”: a social science aimed at trying to reach every patron, from the first-timer to the seasoned scholar.

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