Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Restricted Access (SIA Only)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Morgan Falconer

Second Advisor

Agnes Berecz


The Metropolitan Museum of Art was established as competitor to the Louvre in order to provide New York with an impressive universal museum. Since its beginnings, the museum has struggled with conveying a non-Western narrative in order to accurately display art and objects from other cultures and in turn has reconstructed history in order to emulate the Eurocentric traits of the Louvre. However, in the past few years, the world has changed to allow for, and require more, diversity in every sense of the word. These changes have ultimately brought about new sensitivities that the public did not require the museum to think about before. Universal museums are now faced with an opportunity to change course as it relates to non-Western collections and move away from a model that embodies origins in the Western state. This paper will explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s initial goals and the ways in which it is required to change to adapt to the twenty-first century. By focusing on the museum’s Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and America, or “primitive art,” as they are commonly referred to, this paper will look to provide reason for the Met’s troubled past. Through the exploration of interviews with other museum directors and academics, this paper will discover and recommend how the universal museum needs to change.