Friday, March 15, 2013

The Met vs. Yale

The other day, the news reported that a group of people had filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for deceiving people—the museum is actually free, but they lead people to believe that entrance costs $25 per adult with varying rates for other ages. Part of me was grieved because it’s such a wonderful museum and I hate for them to be distracted by the lawsuit. But another part of me was frustrated--I wondered how many poor families didn't visit because they thought they couldn't afford to. I took my children there twice when we lived in Connecticut. Honestly, I would have taken them many more times, but the price tag gets pretty expensive when you have a family of six and you have to pay for gas, parking, lunch and admission fees.

In all fairness, the admission fee is listed as a “donation.” And on the other hand, the museum staff points out the cute button you get to wear when after you pay, which allows you full day access to the museum even if you go out for lunch. So, I absolutely felt that the cost of the museum was $25 per adult. And, the price was worth it to see the art, Henry VIII’s suit of armor, the Impressionist paintings, and the Greek artifacts—when you see an actual libation bowl, Aeschylus’s Libation Bearers becomes real.

But I can’t help but compare their sense of donation to Yale University’s Museum of Musical Instruments (which is free) and their joy at sharing their treasures. I took my children there one Tuesday afternoon. When we arrived, the front door was locked. I knocked. A woman answered and said, “Yes?” I said, “This is the Museum of Musical Instruments, right?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “This is the right day and time to visit, right?” The woman nearly squealed and said, “You want to see the collection? Come in, come in.”

Then, we went on the best museum tour we have ever experienced. She doted on the children. She gave them archival gloves and let them touch some of the instruments. She told us the stories of the virginal, the viola d’amour, the bass horn, etc. She took a harpsichord apart so we could see how all the mechanisms worked. When she found out the children were musical, she let them play on one of the harpsichords. And Bach played by childish hands sounded through a gallery crowded with one of a kind instruments.

Ten years later, my kids vaguely remember the Met, but they vividly remember the Yale University Museum of Musical Instruments.  If I were in the Northeast again, I’d be knocking on the door of YUMMI and praying that a woman would answer and say, “Yes?”

File:Single-Manual Harpsichord Carl Conrad Fleischer 1716.JPG
Harpsichord. Photo by Hinnerk11, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I always knew the entrance fee was a donation! It says right up there, like you said. Silly that the museum that offers such a priceless cultural experience has to go through this.

  2. It's a shame about the Met, but as much as I would enjoy that museum, the other one sounds even better. Then again, I've never met a museum I didn't love. (Of course, I've never been to that Roach Museum in Texas... somehow, I don't think I'd be a big fan of THAT place.)