An Unbelievably Detailed, Hand-Drawn Map Lets You Explore the Rich Collections of the Met Museum

Would-be tourists tak­ing time out of their sud­den­ly very less busy lives to pore over New York’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art map online may con­vince them­selves it’s pos­si­ble to see every col­lec­tion in one day. Say, if they got there first thing in the morn­ing, skipped lunch, and moved fast. Sure, Mod­ern and Egypt­ian art are on oppo­site sides of oppo­site wings and there are two floors and a mez­za­nine, but if you make a plan….

Any New York­er who runs across such a per­son should imme­di­ate­ly send them John Kerschbaum’s dense, col­or­ful, infor­ma­tion- and peo­ple-rich, Where’s Wal­do-eye view map above. (View it in a larg­er for­mat here. Once you access the page, click on the graph­ic to expand it.) Say, “this is what’s it’s real­ly like on any giv­en day.”

A bewil­der­ing expe­ri­ence that ren­ders the most care­ful plan use­less in under thir­ty min­utes. Unless you only plan to spend time in a cou­ple gal­leries, at most, and know how to get there, it’s best not to get your hopes up for a one-day vis­it. You’ll be daz­zled and wowed, for sure, but also suf­fer from sen­so­ry over­load if you try to see it all.

Tar­get your favorite peri­ods and world cul­tures, ford the crowds to reach your des­ti­na­tion, have some grub. It will take a while to get back out. The expe­ri­ence can be daunt­ing, but by all means do not let these warn­ings stop you once there’s final­ly an all-clear. The Met is “over­whelm­ing, amaz­ing, and down-right unbe­lie­ve­able, real­ly,” writes one blog­ger and fre­quent trav­el­er based in New York City. “If you haven’t been, think of the Lou­vre, Vat­i­can Muse­um, or British Muse­um. The Met is on the scale of those oth­er impres­sive inter­na­tion­al col­lec­tions.”

Ker­schbaum cap­tured the scale of the museum’s awe-inspir­ing huge­ness with flat­tened car­toon scale and per­spec­tive. But the map was drawn from life, in way. Upon receiv­ing the com­mis­sion in 2004 for what became The Fam­i­ly Map, Ker­schbaum, a New York­er him­self, “made count­less vis­its to the ency­clo­pe­dic muse­um and drew hun­dreds of sketch­es,” Atlas Obscu­ra writes.

He was giv­en 50 muse­um pieces that are always on dis­play to anchor the authen­tic feel of his high­ly com­pressed ren­der­ing. “I’d have a floor plan of the muse­um and a clip­board,” he says, “and I’d make notes of where each item was, either by name or a quick sketch.” (Note that he did this over “count­less vis­its.”) After that prepara­to­ry work, he says, in a charm­ing duet with his daugh­ter above, he returned again and again, and “drew and drew and erased and drew and drew and erased and drew some more and drew and drew. Final­ly it was done.” (See a larg­er time-lapse gif fur­ther up.)

Those who would like to know the Met as Ker­schbaum does, in exquis­ite detail and with a very keen sense of direc­tion, will need to put in some seri­ous time. The artist him­self “ded­i­cat­ed not hours, days, or months, but sev­er­al years to draw­ing the art, spaces, and peo­ple he saw at the Met,” the museum’s blog notes. The Fam­i­ly Map fea­tures “hun­dreds of gal­leries and thou­sands of works of art.”

It’s a map the whole fam­i­ly can appre­ci­ate, though Kerschbaum’s daugh­ter sounds maybe a lit­tle weary of talk­ing about it. But it’s also one that depicts the muse­um as a mas­sive, wall-to-wall extend­ed fam­i­ly, one that takes some time and effort to get to know. Ker­schbaum even knows where all the bath­rooms are. “I tell peo­ple about the ones that aren’t crowd­ed,” he says proud­ly. This is, of course, the most use­ful knowl­edge of all in a space of such labyrinthine mag­ni­tude in what will some­day be again one of the most vis­it­ed cities in the world.

See Ker­schbaum’s map up close in a high res­o­lu­tion scan here. When you open the page, click on the image to expand and zoom in.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 569 Free Art Books from The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

Down­load 50,000 Art Books & Cat­a­logs from the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art’s Dig­i­tal Col­lec­tions

The Met Puts 650+ Japan­ese Illus­trat­ed Books Online: Mar­vel at Hokusai’s One Hun­dred Views of Mount Fuji and More

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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