The Paris Review

How Much Should the Met Cost You?

It will soon be three months since the Metropolitan Museum of Art instituted its new admissions policy: pay what you wish for New Yorkers and tristate students, a discount for the elderly and groups, and twenty-five dollars for everybody else. From 1970 to 2018, the Met’s policy had been a more beneficent one—admission fees were up to the discretion of each guest, and the museum was, as Alexandra Schwartz recently wrote for The New Yorker, “as open to the public as Central Park.”

When the Met announced the new fee, commentators envisioned an apocalypse on Fifth Avenue—“” “.” In its press release, the Met made clear that it “will accept a variety of other documents that demonstrate New York residency,” and suggested that virtually no underprivileged guests have actually been turned away. However, this change affects more than just access to the Temple of Dendur. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is arguably the world’s most influential museum, with many ambitions besides serving its visitors. It maintains one of the best conservation labs in the world, sponsors architectural excavations, and funds the research of expert scholars. These are all valuable endeavors, yet the Met’s decision to curtail pay-what-you-wish signals to museums everywhere that when the budget demands, the public should take a backseat to other priorities and stakeholders. Since its inception, the Met has grappled

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