Part of a three instalment documentary, we trace the workings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2019 as it prepares for its 150th anniversary. There are extensive renovations to plan for, revolutionary shows to prepare and a new effort to get visitors back into the museum after a lull in numbers. Everything points to 2020 being the Met’s year – but a certain virus might have other plans for it…
The public opening of the new galleries, on 2 March 2020, heralds the start of the 150th year programme. Curator Dr Wolf Burchard says how strange it feels to have his galleries packed with thousands. That very same night, the first victim of Covid-19 is in hospital. Within days, the Met will be the first large institution in the city to lock down.
As New York becomes a ghost town, viewers are on the inside watching the museum trying to protect one million exhibits from light damage and moths, wrestling with 20% staff cuts and losses of $150m. When that day comes, we witness emotional scenes that underline a truth: that New Yorkers regard the Met as their own. More than just a museum, it’s a resource and a refuge.
Inside America’s Treasure House – Monday at 9pm on BBC Four