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The mission of The Metropolitan Museum of Art is to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all in the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards. The Museum’s art publication and reproduction programs have been an integral part of the institution’s educational mission, existing virtually since the Museum’s beginnings more than a century ago.
Every product created by the Museum is the result of careful research and expert execution by the Metropolitan's staff of art historians, designers, and master craftspeople, who ensure that each reproduction bears the closest possible fidelity to the original. The Metropolitan's reproduction and publication programs are a source of pride to the Museum, not only because they are executed with a focus on quality and attention to art-historical scholarship, but also because publishing and reproducing our collection is part of the original mission of the Museum.
Through scholarly publications, printed pictures, and three-dimensional reproductions of art objects, the Museum has long led the way among American art institutions in making its collections known, understood, and appreciated by diverse audiences. The revenues from the Museum’s merchandising programs play a significant role in helping to maintain the high levels of service the Metropolitan Museum provides. The program brings the Museum’s collection to the widest audience possible, and the proceeds from the sale of all products in The Met Store directly benefit the Museum's collection and programs. The history of the Museum’s art reproductions began in 1871, when the Museum’s Trustees commissioned Jules Jacquemart of Paris to make etchings of ten old master paintings the Museum acquired earlier that year. Published under the imprint of the London firm of Paul and Dominic Colnaghi & Company, these engravings were presented to major European museums to call attention to the importance of the paintings collection and were then sold on consignment in Europe. Aware of the potential of photography as a way to publish representations of paintings and art works, the Museum’s Trustees engaged Gotthelf W. Pach, a professional photographer in New York, to photograph a number of works in the Museum’s collections in November of 1874. Profits from the sale of these photographs were to go to a fund for increasing the Museum’s stock of negatives, and then were sold to help defray the general costs of the Museum. The Museum’s interest in three-dimensional reproductions also began with its own collections in the 19th century.
Across all channels of distribution, shopping at The Met Store creates a connection with the Museum and with the world of art. Visits to The Met Store are enjoyable, educational, and inspirational. The majority of Metropolitan Museum products are developed internally and are based on objects in the Museum’s vast collection or those of collaborative sister institutions. Throughout the development process, the product team meets with Museum curators to assure that the design and final outcome are true to the originals. The Met merchandising staff includes specialists in jewelry, home décor, (sculpture, porcelain, ceramic, glass, and metal), textiles (scarves, ties, accessories), stationery and printed reproductions (prints, posters, notecards), and specialty publications (calendars, craft kits, books, and CDs). In addition to Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition catalogues, our book buyer stocks what is most likely the most comprehensive art book selection in the United States in the Museum’s Fifth Avenue location. Additionally, the Museum specialists select best-selling and current titles for our satellite stores, mail-order catalogue and website. The educational materials meet the highest standards for scholarship and the Museum’s products offer superior design, quality, and value.
Distribution of Museum products has expanded over the years to include a thriving retail business, both at the Museum and in satellite locations nationwide and internationally. The Museum’s products are also sold direct-to-consumer through our mail-order catalogue established in 1921 and online since 1999.