The Northeast is home to two of the largest art collections in the world and has more than its fair share of world-renowned masterpieces. The region’s best museums, large and small, have also amassed collections relevant to the Northeast and the nation and have become iconic parts of their destinations.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
With a footprint of more than 2 million square feet, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest museum in the country. The treasury of rare and beautiful objects is housed in an enormous Beaux Arts building in Central Park on Fifth Avenue.
“Once you’re in the doors, you discover a whole slew of things that appeal to different interests in your life,” said Haley Ward, head of tourism sales and marketing at the museum. “I still show up to work and discover new things. We have over 2 million objects of art at any given time.”
The collection has been growing since the museum opened in 1870 and now spans 5,000 years of human history from every part of the world. There’s the American wing; European paintings and sculptures; Egyptian art, which includes the Temple of Dendur, a 10 B.C. temple gifted to the United States and installed in its own wing; Greek and Roman art; medieval art; arms and armor; art of the Arab lands; Asian art; photography; drawings; prints; musical instruments; modern and contemporary art; and arts of Africa, Oceana and the Americas.
Groups can bypass admission lines and select private tours with a trained museum guide or elect for the exclusive EmptyMet tour. “This is our VIP early-morning tour that happens before the Met opens to the public,” Ward said. “One of the museum’s most-engaging guides leads you through a fast-paced tour of the highlights of the museum. It’s a lot of fun, and there are lots of great photo opportunities.”
Portland Museum of Art
Maine’s oldest museum, the Portland Museum of Art (PMA), carries a robust collection of iconic American art in addition to remarkable European and contemporary collections. Since a significant number of the country’s most notable artists, among them Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth and Frederic Edwin Church, looked to Maine for inspiration, the PMA boasts many of their most iconic works.
“Maine, as a place, extends from artists colonies and a generation of premier artists who have chosen to do incredible work in Maine,” said Graeme Kennedy, the museum’s director of marketing and public relations.
For groups particularly interested in American art, the museum runs shuttles to Homer’s studio, just a 20-minute drive away. The studio was Homer’s primary residence and workspace from 1884 until his 1910 death.
“You get to visit the spot where Homer painted his most excellent works,” Kennedy said. “You get to walk in his steps, see what he saw, step onto the same cliff walk — it’s really a rare experience.”
The PMA also specializes in creating original experiences for groups, and organizers can request customized tours by docents, curators or even the director on any topic. And since the museum’s entire collection is online, group organizers can request pieces not currently on display to be presented in the art study room when the group arrives.