Outgoing Metropolitan Museum Director Had ‘Inappropriate Relationship’ With Female Staffer

More details emerge about Thomas Campbell's missteps at the Met.

Thomas Campbell attends the Costume Institute's 'Manus x Machina' exhibition press presentation at Metropolitan Museum of Art on February 15, 2016 in New York City. Photo by Andrew Toth, courtesy Getty Images.

Thomas P. Campbell, the outgoing director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “had an inappropriate relationship” with a member of the museum’s digital staff, a report by Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times reveals. Based on a series of more than 24 interviews with Met insiders past and present, the report claims that “dysfunction in the digital media department” was ignored by the institution at large.

Campbell has previously been criticized for the rapid expansion of the digital department and diversion of resources to its operations, among a number of other missteps during his directorship, held since 2009. Campbell announced his resignation on February 28, effective June 30.

The relationship between Campbell and the unnamed staff member was a root of tension among the digital team, with at least two former members telling the reporter that they’ve left their posts because of it.

The Met’s first chief officer of digital media, Erin Coburn was poached from the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2010, and employed until 2012. In her last year at the New York institution, she filed a formal complaint in regards to the relationship’s effect on her working conditions, but an investigation deemed it not a problem. Nonetheless, tax records reveal that Coburn departed the Met with a payment of $183,000 in addition to her salary of $166,000 in 2012. She also signed a confidentiality agreement.

A number of top female executives, including Emily K. Rafferty, who was president at the time, and Sharon H. Cott, the senior vice president, secretary and general counsel, reportedly knew about Coburn’s complaints.

The staff member, who joined the Met in 2000 and took on the role of manager of online publications in 2009, reportedly “had a direct line to Mr. Campbell and amassed power well beyond her rank,” “sidelining certain colleagues,” and “commanding resources and hiring outside staff members for her projects, which added costs and created infrastructure complications.”

A former project manager at the Met said the staff member was “very hard” to manage due to her relationship with Campbell. She was let go as part of a series of layoffs in October 2016.

Matthew R. Morgan, the general manager of the Met’s website from 2006 to 2012, also cited Campbell’s relationship as a reason for leaving.

A recent Vanity Fair article described Campbell’s “friskiness,” as well as, paraphrased by artnet News, his “habit of selecting so-called ‘anointed ones.'”

Current President Daniel H. Weiss is a candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant directorship, although a formal search will take place.

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