But the Smithsonian Institution was the Met’s fiercest competitor, arguing that Dendur should be situated outdoors in the nation’s capital. According to Hoving in his best-selling 1993 memoir, Jackie Kennedy was one of the more passionate advocates for its placement in D.C. In his typical frank and florid manner, Hoving recounts a heated phone call with the former first lady. The museum director requested Jackie’s help in garnering the support of her brother-in-law, New York senator Bobby Kennedy, but she vehemently refused.
“‘I don’t care if the temple crumbles into sand, but I want it to be built in the center of Washington as a memorial to Jack,’” Hoving recalls Jackie saying. “‘I don’t care about the Met. I don’t care about New York. Or Bobby’s senatorial duties. Or his constituents. Or scholarship. Or this conservation business …’.” Although Jackie eventually called back to apologize, that “conservation business” was likely what tipped the scales in the Met’s favor. At a government hearing, Hoving argued that placing the temple outside (as the Smithsonian reportedly planned to do) would destroy the monument in as little as 25 years.
Hoving was quick to recognize the burden the new acquisition posed. “Victory gave birth to a whole new set of problems,” he writes. “Having won the lumbering temple, I was faced with actually receiving it, storing it, and putting it back together.” Upon arriving at the Met, the stones were first stored in a tent-like bubble in the museum’s south parking lot. Eventually, they were moved to a steel hanger-like construction in the north lot, where they were examined, cleaned, and conserved. Finally, native Italian stonemasons reassembled the temple in the Sackler Wing according to ancient grooves and incisions earlier builders had left on the stone (as well as photos and drawings).