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Secrecy And (Rather Salacious) Revelations At The Met

Apr 3, 2017

Thomas P. Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who resigned in February and will leave in June. CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

In 2010, the Metropolitan Museum of Art hired Erin Coburn away from the J. Paul Getty Museum, lauding her as its “first chief officer of digital media” — a role created and promoted by the Met director and chief executive, Thomas P. Campbell, as part of his efforts to move the museum into the 21st century.

Two years later, Ms. Coburn quietly left, along with a confidential settlement from the Met. Though no clear explanation was given at the time, recent interviews with former and current staff members reveal that Ms. Coburn had long complained that she was unable to do her job effectively because of a close personal relationship between Mr. Campbell and a female staff member in her department.

Mr. Campbell announced his resignation in February. And while the relationship was not the reason he left, staff members say that it contributed to a yearslong erosion of respect for his authority and judgment within the Met and that it reflects larger problems in how the institution is managed by top executives and the board of trustees.

Despite its vaunted collection, prodigious $332 million budget and a board stocked with some of the country’s most powerful donors, the Met is largely run by a dozen or so executives and trustees, interviews show, with little transparency or accountability.