Thomas P. Campbell, director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, aims to make the venerable museum's offerings both narrative-driven and accessible.
Thomas P. Campbell became the ninth Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in January of 2009. Since he began, Campbell has pursued an agenda for the Met that focuses on scholarship and accessibility. These priorities maintain the Museum’s excellence in its exhibitions, publications, acquisitions and permanent collections, while encouraging new thinking about the visitor experience. Further initiatives include exploring the judicious use of technology in the Museum and fully integrating education into all the Met’s activities.
Campbell led the Met through the fiscal setbacks caused by the 2008 recession without reducing hours, gallery openings or programs. He launched an effort to redesign the Museum’s website which now attracts more than 50 million visits per year. FY2011 also saw the Met’s highest attendance in 40 years, rising to 5.6 million. The Museum has just opened new galleries for its Islamic Art Department and American Wing, and is working on plans to renovate The Costume Institute and to reconfigure the outdoor plaza and fountains. In 2011, Campbell announced a collaboration with the Whitney Museum in which the Met will program its landmark Breuer Building on Madison Avenue starting in 2015.
Campbell had worked in the Metropolitan's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts for fourteen years, rising steadily through the curatorial ranks as Assistant Curator (1995-97), Associate Curator (1997-2003), and Curator (2003 to December 2008). During this time, he conceived and organized the major exhibitions Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence (2002) and Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor (New York, 2007; Palacio Real, Madrid, spring 2008), both of which incorporated drawings, paintings, and prints, as well as tapestries, and received widespread acclaim. The 2002 exhibition was named "Exhibition of the Year" by Apollo Magazine and its catalogue won the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award (College Art Association) for distinguished exhibition catalogue in the history of art (2003). Since shortly after his arrival at the Museum, he also served as Supervising Curator of The Antonio Ratti Textile Center, which houses the Museum's encyclopedic collection of 36,000 textiles and is one of the preeminent centers of textile studies in the world.
“The Great Hall at the Met is one of the great portals of the world. … From there, you can walk in any direction to almost any culture.”
“We live in a world of crisis, of challenge, and … it's in our galleries that we can unpack the civilizations that we're seeing the current manifestations of.”
“I think for most Americans, knowledge of the Islamic world was pretty slight before 9/11, and then it was thrust upon us in one of America's darkest hours.”
“Bringing people face to face with [museum] objects is a way of bringing them face to face with people across time, across space, whose lives may have been very different to our own.”