Museums: The Muses' Marble Acres

They start arriving on the steep stone steps at an early hour. In wintertime, the motorcycle jackets and minks, chesterfields and children's snowsuits quilt the entrance. In summer, every shirtsleeve seems to end in an ice cream cone. In any season it is Sunday, and the people wadded up against the doubled Corinthian columns are waiting to get into the most culturally concentrated 20 acres in the U.S.—New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Watching the crowds jostling through the Met's entrance last week, Director James J. Rorimer, 59, could not repress a small...

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