It’s practically a Metropolitan Museum of Art tradition for visitors to get lost in the depths of the massive Beaux-Arts building while trying to soak in but a tenth of the collections on display. John Kerschbaum undertook a similarly daunting task in 2004 to illustrate a condensed, but no less detailed, map of the MET’s exhibits for visitors to use. The Parsons School of Design graduate was a perfect choice given his familiarity with the city and love of perusing the MET’s galleries. In order to start this almost inhuman request, Kerschbaum was given fifty significant pieces that were continuously on display from each of the department heads so as to help guide his pursuit.
“One of the biggest challenges was keeping up with the museum itself. Every time I visited, it was different than my previous visit,” says the illustrator. Taking inspiration from a 1976 poster of Manhattan by artist Tony Graham, the whimsical, colorful map that was completed in 2007 has humored visitors ever since. Starting with the Egyptian wing in the bottom right corner, and stretching to include sights like medieval armor, Renaissance portraits, and Grecian sculptures, the Where’s Waldo? compactness of the guide features a hidden scavenger hunt along its borders.
Although parts of the map have been rendered outdated as the museum has added and removed exhibits and pieces in the years since, the guide still remains a popular choice for people who visit the institution. Kerschbaum suggests seeking out “the emptiest gallery” to give yourself the chance to really absorb the pieces you’re seeing. “No matter how many times I might end up in the same uncrowded gallery, I never fail to find something new or something that I missed the last time I visited.”
While the MET is currently closed due to coronavirus safety regulations, you can use this map to start preparing for your next visit when it reopens and get a leg-up on the other visitors who are also trying to see that Degas, Monet, or Van Gogh you’ve been dying to visit in person.