Watson Library has digitized the catalogs of the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art from its very beginnings in 1870 through 1949, with a selection of later titles. The collection is being added to and will ultimately include collection catalogs through 1964.
There are 55 items published between 1880-1889. The types of items published in this second decade of the Museum’s history include catalogs of and guides to the Museum’s permanent collection, catalogs of objects loaned to the Museum, and official Museum documents, such as annual reports.
One permanent collection catalog from this decade is The Johnston Collection of Engraved Gems, presented to the Museum in 1881 by its president, Mr. John Taylor Johnston, and installed in what was then called the Grand Hall. The catalog’s introductory note, seen below, provides a brief description and history of the collection.
Other important catalogs from this time include those documenting the Museum’s Cesnola collection of Cypriote antiquities, covering both pottery and sculpture. Though largely unillustrated, the catalog of sculptures does contain a map of Cyprus from 1877.
One catalog containing a notable illustration is entitled Pictures by Old Masters, which includes works both belonging and loaned to the Museum in 1882 and displayed in its east gallery. This illustration is of Raphael’s Madonna Dei Candelabri, and is followed in the catalog by an interesting essay discussing the work’s provenance.
An interesting document from this second decade of the Museum’s history is one which delineates the ceremonies which took place at the 1888 inauguration of one of the first additions to the Museum’s original Central Park structure of 1880. Plans of the newly expanded first and second floors of the Museum can be seen below.
Lastly, materials from this period also include the prospectus of the Technical and Art Schools of the Museum, from 1880 and 1888-1889 respectively. The Technical Schools offered classes in house, sign, and decorative painting, turning and woodcarving, carriage drafting and construction, and industrial art, as well as trade-specific classes in drawing, designing, modeling, and carving. The proclaimed aim of this school was to “… make first-class workmen who can earn a living by their trade.”
The Museum’s Art Schools offered classes in design, modeling, color, freehand, architectural and perspective drawing, chasing and hammered metal work, and painting on china. Their aim was to offer instruction particularly to those individuals “… who desire to acquire an artistic education applicable to Industrial and Commercial uses.” Here is a page from the Art Schools’ prospectus with a description of classes, their schedule and fees, and the instructors’ names.
Notably, the Art Schools’ prospectus ends with the statement that if a class in bookbinding is found practical, one will be formed at the commencement of the school year.
All these items are part of the much larger Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection.