Website Review

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The vast collection of the Metropolitan Museum is effectively arranged and integrated on the www.metmuseum.org website. Navigation of the site is straightforward, enabling efficient browsing or research. Although no specific essays or exhibits on children and youth are found on the site, several hundred artworks relevant to the topic can be located by searching the Collection Database or the Timeline of Art History (TOAH)—more than sites dedicated to the subject.

The Collection Database of 129,022 objects can be searched as a whole, by subject, by curatorial department, or by exhibit. The collection database search is comprehensive, and returned 3629 entries under "children." Childe Hassam is a distracter in this keyword search, but the search "Children NOT Childe" reduced the return to 319 items. "Boy" returned many distracters, but "girl" returned 954 items, and "infant" returned 252 items. "Toys" returned only 21 items, indicating a limitation of the museum's collection in that area. "Youth" returned 186 works and "young" 1741 items. The biggest drawback of the collection search was that many of the works are associated with placeholder images, although the metadata may help locate images elsewhere. As digitization of the collection proceeds, this may improve.

The TOAH is an unmatched resource for educators. The 6,000 included artworks are organized by three integrated elements: maps, timelines, and thematic essays. World and regional maps correlate artwork to eleven world eras and locate it in ten world regions. Timelines place the artworks in historical context, and include key events, political, stylistic and technological periodization. Eight hundred thematic essays provide historical context for groups of artwork and discuss characteristics, techniques, and significance. The essays reveal connections among civilizations and regions, and provide material for comparative study.

Educators searching for information on children in art can locate artworks featuring children and youth by a search of the TOAH, which seems more rewarding than the database search because all of the works are associated with images, and they are easily placed in context by TOAH's features. The searches are conveniently shown by category, so the user can bring up all relevant artworks, essays, timelines or other occurrences with one click.

A TOAH search of "children" found the term in 23 timelines, 153 thematic essays, and 396 works of art. "Figure, Child" in the Subject Index returned 21 essays and 80 works of art, each shown as a thumbnail image with titles. On the subject of childbirth, 15 artworks can be viewed. Terms such as "girl" (97 works), "boy" (9) and "young" or "youth" (4) returned artworks from across the globe and the eras.

An activity using the 97 artworks under "girl" might compare the relative age connoted by the term in various cultures and periods. Some depict small children, while others are clearly young women. A selection of western European drawings and paintings could focus on the changing definition of girlhood over time or explore symbols and objects associated with girlhood. Some of the artworks show girls in active social roles, playing sports and games, fulfilling ritual roles, or being mourned in funerary works. Some of the works are expressions of girls' work in various societies, such as needlework, preparation of trousseaus, or manual labor at home. In short, the collection can be used to gather ideas about girlhood over time and across cultures. Similar explorations about youth and boys could be made. Educators will find many ways to place childhood in historical context using this website.

How to Cite This Source

Susan Douglass, "The Metropolitan Museum of Art," in Children and Youth in History, Item #205, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/items/show/205 (accessed September 17, 2014).

Educators will find many ways to place childhood in historical context using this website.