Who would have thought it would have taken this long for the state-of-the-art Metropolitan Museum of Art to install humidity controls to protect its medieval frescoes and painted wooden sculptures? According to curator-in-charge Peter Barnet
, who sat next to me today at the Met's press lunch, The Cloisters are at last emerging from the dark ages of climate control---part of the much needed longterm renovation
of the Met's branch at the northern tip of Manhattan. He claimed that the treasures housed in the 68-year-old outpost suffered little damage (other than minor paint chipping), despite being subjected to so many years of fluctuating humidity. The leaking roofs? Let's not go there.
The new-and-improved Cloisters also includes a cafe and the introduction of audio guides
, which the museum insists will enrich visitors' understanding, "without intruding on this special atmosphere"---the tranquility treasured by the retreat's devotees.
Perhaps the press-release writers need to re-read Philippe de Montebello
's comments in the book Whose Muse? Art Museums and the Public Trust
, in which the Met's director deplores "those horrid audio machines."
Then again, whose voice is it that emanates from those infernal contraptions...?