Examining a History of Collecting at The Met

How has the composition of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection changed over the museum's illustrious history?

Over the course of the past century and a half, the world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has been a stalwart of the preservation and exhibition of human history, culture, and art. Since it's founding in 1870, the Met has amassed an impressive collection of over 1.5 million objects spanning a vast variety of eras, civilizations, and mediums. After releasing descriptive data about this collection to the public, a small contingent of the Data Visualization program at Parson's School of Design in New York dove into this data to explore what insight about The Met's history lay hidden in this expansive dataset.

This project aims to understand how the Met's collection composition has changed over time, focusing particularly on comparing across an object's country of cultural significance. I attributed each object to a specific country by considering a number of factors provided by the Met's collection database. First, I take the Met's 'country' label for each piece if provided, which is a fairly straight-forward association. If this information was not explicitly provided, I then look to artist nationality, then the country associated with the primary artist in their displayed biography, and finally the culture attributed to each object. Any object unattributed to a country of significance after this evaluation is left out of this analysis.

The below animation advances through each year of the Met's history, charting how the composition of the Met's collection compares across the 10 countries with the most objects in this collection. You can increase or decrease the speed of the animation with the up and down arrows, and can start or stop the animation by clicking the mouse. If the animation is stopped, advance forward or backward one year with the left and right arrows. Hover over a country label on the left-hand side of the chart, ordered by overall prominence, to highlight this specific country's progression in the animation. Click a specific country label to toggle between overall country comparisons and a breakdown of the classifications within a specific country's collection.