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Dear Membership News Subscriber,

Join The Metropolitan Museum of Art and take advantage of the many benefits of Membership, including free admission to The Cloisters Museum and Gardens—home to the finest collection of medieval art, architecture, and plants outside of Europe. This fascinating institution, located in northern Manhattan, is the subject of this month’s edition of Membership News, in which Horticulturist Deirdre Larkin shares insights on tending some of the most intriguing plants on American soil.

Museum Members receive many exclusive benefits, including discounts on Audio Guide rentals and 10% off purchases in all Met Museum Stores in the United States and online. Become a Member today!

In This Issue

Behind-the-Scenes at the Met:
    Inside the Gardens of The
    Cloisters
For Young Members
More Than a Piggy Bank

Behind-the-Scenes at the Met: Inside the Gardens of The Cloisters

Even in a city of more than 8 million residents, Deirdre Larkin easily has one of the most unique jobs. A practicing horticulturist and plant historian with a background in medieval studies, she is in charge of the gardens at The Cloisters, a responsibility she enthusiastically describes as her "super dream job." Deirdre oversees every aspect of the gardens, from designing beautiful beds with the appropriate plants and flowers, to working with her staff on the actual planting of her choices, to weeding, watering, and providing the year-round care required to keep all the plants flourishing. In addition, she is very much involved in interpreting the uses of the medieval garden for the public.

Last month, Deirdre took her encyclopedic knowledge of medieval horticulture online, where she is hosting a new blog entitled The Medieval Garden Enclosed on the Museum’s website. Recently she discussed her work with Membership News Editor Eti Bonn-Muller.

I think you have a unique job…
It is a unique job. It’s pretty wonderful because it’s got everything. Some parts of it are very physical and others are very sensory. Yet there are parts of it that are very intellectually satisfying.

How many plants do you plant in a season?
It’s hard to say…Let’s put it this way: we have a working list of about 350 plants that were known and used in the Middle Ages. And we don’t necessarily plant all of them every year. But we do plant the more important ones and the ones you might not find outside a botanical garden.

How do you decide which ones to feature?
It depends on a number of factors—primarily, the importance of the plant in medieval life and art. Another thing that goes into the decision is whether or not it’s an unusual plant that people will not get to see somewhere else. I also have to consider whether, in fact, I can grow it. There are some plants that would be ideal candidates. For instance, in the
Unicorn in Captivity tapestry, there’s a large European orchid that’s very prominently placed against the body of the unicorn and I would love to grow that orchid here. But that’s one of the plants that depend on special combinations of organisms in the soil. You can’t grow it anywhere except in its native soil in Europe. One more factor that comes into my decision is that I want to balance the four large beds in the Bonnefont Garden that are planted according to use: we have a bed of medicinal plants, magical plants, plants used as artists’ materials, and plants used in the medieval kitchen.

Sounds like it’s a difficult decision!
It is. And it’s especially horticulturally challenging to plant the beds by use. Just because they all go together intellectually, or they were all used by artists, doesn’t mean they want to grow together. They come from really different habitats.

Are there some that were more frequently represented in art?
There are many of them. Plants like the Madonna lily would be one; also the medieval rose would be another that I’d consider really essential. Those are probably the two most important symbolic plants of the Middle Ages, but they also had multiple uses.

Is there a lot of daily maintenance involved with the gardens?
Yes, quite a bit. Medieval plants—because they’re not bred to be garden plants—are not well behaved. Many modern garden plants have been bred, actually, to be less lanky or to flower more heavily or for a longer time. With these medieval species you don’t have that. And in fact, a lot of grooming is required because these plants are much closer to being wild. Many of them are not only weedy, they actually are familiar to some people as roadside weeds. We are accustomed to despising them, but in the Middle Ages they had uses and therefore they were herbs. But plants like that do need extra work to keep them looking well.

Generally speaking, are plants and flowers accurately depicted in medieval art?
That depends entirely on the individual work of art and the artistic intent. You can take two tapestries that were made in approximately the same year and one of them might be very, very realistic in its depiction and the other might be highly stylized. But we do try to use the
artworks here in the collection as a source and grow plants that are represented in the tapestries and other artworks. On our blog, we will be including images of the plants in artwork, insofar as it is possible.

Do you have an all-time favorite plant or flower?
That’s a pretty hard question. I couldn’t answer that in a meaningful way. It’s like asking someone who has 12 children who their favorite child is! Of course, I have dozens of ‘children’…

What is the one thing you wish people who aren’t familiar with The Cloisters Museum and Gardens knew about it?
It’s absolutely unique in the United States to see medieval plants growing in the context of medieval architecture—there is nowhere else you can see that. I would even go further: you’re not going to see it in Europe except in very few instances because many medieval cloisters in Europe are not planted as gardens. And although the medieval architecture here is beautiful and unchanging, the gardens change every day, which is another reason to come often.

Throughout the year, Gallery Talks are conducted at The Cloisters every Saturday and on the first Sunday of every month at 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. Garden Tours are held Tuesday through Sunday at 1:00 p.m. from May through October. Highlights Tours of the collection are presented at 3:00 p.m., Tuesday through Friday and on Sunday.

Visit us online to find out more about The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, including location, hours, and admissions; upcoming events and programs; works of art in the collection; and the seasonal Trie Café that offers self-serve sandwiches, snacks, desserts, cold beverages, and coffee to enjoy outdoors under the covered arcades and walkway of the French Trie Cloister.

Share your thoughts—and learn even more—about your favorite medieval plants and flowers on The Medieval Garden Enclosed blog.

Image: Field Eryngo, (Eryngium campestre), Bonnefont Garden, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, New York. Photograph by Barbara Bell

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For Young Members

We are delighted to announce the launch of a brand-new area of the Museum’s website devoted exclusively to the interests of our Young Members between the ages of 21 and 35. Find out about upcoming events, programs, special exhibitions, and more—all in one place! And keep an eye on this page, where we’ll be posting pictures from our Young Members "Bigwigs" party.

This month, be sure to stop by the Museum to see Tara Donovan at the Met, an exhibition in which the artist (American, b. 1969) used Mylar tape to create a wall-mounted installation that encompasses the entire gallery. Through a vast accumulation of webs of metallic loops, Donovan transforms the space into a unique phenomenological experience for the viewer. The exhibition has been extended through September 1.

Your online guide to the best activities for Young Members at the Met is just a click away. See you soon!

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More Than a Piggy Bank

Many friends of the Met contribute to the institution’s future well-being by including the Museum in their estate plans. Bequests help to build the collection and provide support for exhibitions, scholarly publications, conservation, and educational activities.

A savings account, retirement account, or insurance policy can be designated as an ultimate gift for the Met in your estate plans. You can easily arrange for this type of estate plan gift, called a Totten Trust, by asking your bank for the appropriate form.

These thoughtful gifts for the future of the Museum also automatically qualify you for Membership in The William Society. For more information about ways to include The Metropolitan Museum of Art in your estate plan, please visit Planned Giving, call 212-570-3796, or email planned.giving@metmuseum.org.

Image: Statuette of a Hippopotamus, ca. 1981–1885 B.C.E.; Dynasty 12; Middle Kingdom Egyptian; Middle Egypt, Meir. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1917 (17.9.1).

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Met Holiday Monday: September 1

The Main Building of the Metropolitan Museum—select galleries, public restaurants, and shops—will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, September 1, in honor of Labor Day.

For information regarding Family Programs this Holiday Monday, please visit the online calendar.

Met Holiday Mondays are sponsored by CIT.

Become a Member

Give to the Membership Annual Appeal

Whether you choose to contribute to our annual appeal, purchase tickets to a benefit event, or give directly to one of our Greatest Needs, your support is vital to the success of this institution.

Thank you for your generosity.

Travel with the Met

New Year’s in the Yucatán (PDF)

December 26, 2008–January 4, 2009

Discover Mayan sites during a cruise aboard Le Levant. After a stay in colonial Mérida, sail to Campeche, Tulum, and Belize. Continue exploring with an optional postlude in the Mayan city of Tikal.

Land/cruise rates: from $6,990

For a list of upcoming trips or for more information, please visit Travel with the Met or call 212-650-2110.

Met Store Featured Item

Nature and Its Symbols

A richly illustrated guide explaining the symbolic significance of plants, fruit, and animals portrayed in art, as well as their mythical or literary origins.

Member Price: $22.45
Non-Member Price: $24.95

Experience the fine art of shopping at The Met Store!

New Met Podcast Episode

The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions—narrated by Curator Helen Evans—features commentary on a selection of the more than 84,000 works of art acquired during the director’s tenure. The illustrated episode complements an upcoming special exhibition opening on October 24 that will pay tribute to Philippe de Montebello’s 31 years as director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Summer Dining Privileges

Associate, Individual, and Family/Dual Members are invited to dine in The Trustees Dining Room with the special summer Membership benefit of Friday and Saturday dinner and weekend brunch through September 28. President’s Circle, Patron Circle, Patron, Sponsor, Donor, Contributing, Sustaining, and Friend Members are eligible to dine at all times.

Concerts & Lectures Highlights

The Met has announced a new season of Concerts & Lectures. Purchase your tickets today before the following programs sell out: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra: Carnival of the Animals with Philippe de Montebello as narrator (Friday, September 26, at 8:00 p.m.; tickets: $60), Itzhak Perlman Plays Chamber Music with Yoonjee Kim on piano (Saturday, October 18, at 8:00 p.m.; tickets: $65), and Inside the Met: The Costume Institute with curators from the department (Wednesday, October 15, at 6:00 p.m.; tickets: $23).

Visit us online for a complete listing of upcoming programs.

New Audio Guides

Get an up-close-and-personal tour of the Museum’s collection and special exhibitions through engaging Audio Guide commentary by prominent curators and educators. Recently added segments feature the works of art in three exhibitions:

Of special note: a new Audio Guide program entitled "Investigations: Art, Conservation, and Science" looks at works of art through the eyes of a curator, conservator, and scientist.

Related Met Podcast Episode

Work of Art: A Conversation with Marco Leona, Joan Mertens, and Mark Abbe
A scientist, a curator, and an archaeologist discuss the exciting discoveries revealed by the scientific analyses of an ancient Greek funerary stele.

With warm best wishes,


Barbara Dougherty
Managing Chief Membership Officer
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Recommended same-day admission to the Main Building of the Museum and The Cloisters Museum and Gardens is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students, and is free to Members and children under 12 accompanied by an adult. Visit Admissions to purchase advance tickets from TicketWeb.

As a Member you receive free admission to the Museum and The Cloisters, invitations to exhibition previews and receptions, special dining privileges, and discounts in The Met Store.

Associate: $50   |   Met Net: $60  |   Individual: $95  |   Family/Dual: $190

Exact benefits vary by category.

Join today and don’t miss a moment of this fall’s festivities as we celebrate Philippe de Montebello’s 31 years as director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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