How MoMA Works

By: Christopher Neiger
A museum employee walks up a stairway framed by Andy Warhol's cow wallpaper at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. See more pictures of American landmarks.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The Museum of Modern Art, often referred to as MoMA, is a contemporary and modern art museum in Manhattan, and was the first museum to focus solely on modern art. Since it opened in 1929, the museum has provided the general public with access to both modern and contemporary art, with a focus of educating the public and being the centerpiece for modern art throughout the world.

All museums have rare or unique works of art, tours or a peculiar history that make them famous; however, the Museum of Modern Art earned its reputation through its goal of helping people understand the visual art of their time. The MoMA incorporates works of art from architecture and design, film and video, photography, painting, sculpture, drawings, prints and illustrated books.


The permanent collection began with only eight prints and one drawing. Several decades later, it now includes more than 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and 22,000 films [source: MoMA]. Some of these visual works of art vary as to what viewing audience they're intended for, but the museum has established many family oriented programs and exhibits that make the museum a perfect stop on a family vacation or day trip.

Museums and tours might not be a first choice for many families looking for vacation ideas, but the MoMA offers a variety of programs that will not only satisfy the educational and artistic depths for parents, but will entertain and inspire kids of all ages, too. Researchers and students alike will find one of the most expansive collections of modern and contemporary artist information at the MoMA as well. With over 300,000 books, periodicals and files, anyone interested in researching modern art will have access to information about more than 70,000 artists [source: MoMA].

Keep reading to find out more about the tours, family events and educational opportunities at the Museum of Modern Art.


MoMA Information

A visitor at the Museum of Modern Art walks past "Belts," a Richard Serra sculpture.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The Museum of Modern Art offers several different types of tours, ranging from large groups to individual and private tours, too. Guided tours at the museum provide visitors with an in-depth look at the art within the MoMA and are led by professional historians. Although museum admission is free for kids 16 and under, anyone participating in any of the museum's tours will have to pay, including children as young as 5 years old. For those planning a visit to the Museum of Modern Art as part of a family vacation, family tours can be arranged for groups of 10 or more and tours can be specifically catered to meet the artistic interests of the family.

Many museums and tours offer family-focused programs, and the MoMA is no exception. The museum offers special programs designed for kids ages 4 to 14, where kids can learn about art that's considered appropriate for their age. Audio tours are also available for specific age groups to teach young museum attendees about what they're seeing. At the same time, parents and guardians can listen in on their own audio explanations. Art workshops, family films and interactive spaces provide families with a comprehensive art experience. The MoMA provides a printed guide for families, encourages kids to bring pencils and paper to draw their own versions of the art and offers a good alternative to a traditional family vacation, too.


Aside from the tours and the family opportunities, the MoMA has a strong focus on education and research as well. The museum has its own publications department and has published more than 1,250 titles in 20 languages [Source: MoMA]. Most of the works are catalogues of exhibits or scholarly works on key pieces of the museum's permanent collection. Anthologies from important art-historical texts have also been published, as well as guides on the MoMA's history and its buildings.

So while many museums can (and do) offer a historical or artistic experience to attendees, the Museum of Modern Art differs in that it offers both -- a historical and artistic perspective, while focusing on the influence art has had on culture since the late 19th century.

For more information about the Museum of Modern Art and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

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  • Chou, Ingrid. "Magnetic MoMA: A Graphic Look at Shape Lab." The Museum of Modern Art. April 26, 2010. (May 19, 2010)
  • Stevens, Mark. "Gentle Giant." New York Magazine. May 21, 2005. (May 19, 2010)
  • The Museum of Modern Art. (May 19, 2010)
  • The Museum of Modern Art. "Exhibition History List." (May 19, 2010)
  • Virtual Tourist. "Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City." (May 19, 2010)