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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 12:25 GMT
Big expansion plan for US museum
Computer-generated image of Metropolitan Museum of Art interior
A computer-generated image of how the new gallery will look
New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is spending almost $180m (96.2m) on an expansion to display thousands of the world's finest classical artworks.

It is extending its gallery space to accommodate 5,000 Greek and Roman treasures currently sitting in storage.

They will be displayed in the Roman Court, a soaring space with limestone columns at the heart of the project.

The galleries also will house 12,000 objects of Islamic art dating from the seventh to the 19th centuries.

Roman artefacts range from gold jewellery, gems and cameos to portraits of the emperors Augustus and Caligula.

Extra space

"We have a sacred obligation to put this material on view," said museum director Philippe de Montebello.

An extra 57,000 square feet of galleries will be created from space used for mainly administrative purposes.

Construction will begin immediately and the work is due to be completed by spring 2007.

The expansion on the south side of the Fifth Avenue building will also provide a view of Central Park through Met windows.

The Roman-style court is to be named the Leon Levy and Shelby White Roman Court after the late financier and collector and his wife, a Met trustee.

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