Just as the museum closes, Big Bird announces that he must stay behind to find Mr. Snuffleupagus. While the others search the entire museum for Big Bird (while avoiding a guard), he and Snuffy befriend Egyptian Prince Sahu, who has been trying to solve a riddle for more than 4,000 years so that he can finally join his parents. The boy prince claims to be under a spell cast by Osiris, the Lord of the Underworld, and asks Big Bird and Snuffy to help him find the answer to the question, "Where does today meet yesterday?" The three wander throughout the museum searching for clues from ancient Egyptian drawings, while the others examine masterpieces and art objects.
Other characters have their own unique cultural experiences: Oscar the Grouch stumbles upon a Roman and Greek statue display and sings about "the most beautiful trash" he's ever seen; Cookie Monster, reading a booklet entitled "Food Art," sings the title song about museum etiquette; Grover sings to a suit of Maximillian armor; and Bert and Ernie examine a portrait of George Washington.
The special was originally conceived of and pitched by Tony Geiss as a part of the show's tenth anniversary celebration, under the simpler title of "Sesame Street at the Metropolitan." The special was passed on at the time, but executive producer Dulcy Singer liked the concept enough and proposed it to Karl Kantz, special projects chairman for the Metropolitan, in 1981.
One of the earliest outlines for the special retained the same essential conceit for the plot - Big Bird wandering off from the group to meet up with Snuffy at the museum results in everybody being locked in overnight. However, their adventure instead focused on the two searching for an ancient Snuffleupagus sarcophagus (intended to be played by the sarcophagus of Harkhebit) to ask it an important riddle. In between these scenes and musical numbers, there were planned to be more scenes of the Muppet and human characters observing various artifacts and getting the kids' unfiltered responses. Additional scenes that were eventually removed or reworked included Big Bird and Snuffy imaging themselves in an old American ballroom event, some of the cast mistaking a resting Snuffy for a museum piece, and Ernie and Bert's unique perspectives on the museum - Ernie admires the art, while Bert fawns over the pedestals and benches.
As a full script was prepared, Big Bird and Snuffy's subplot was now altered to include the presence of Prince Sahu (called "Ptah" in early scripts) and his plight. Some additional musical numbers were written up, including two that were ultimately cut from the special, titled "We're Going to the Museum and We're Late" and "Rowing Down the Nile."
The finalized special was taped during July and August 1983. This coincided with the filming of The Muppets Take Manhattan, requiring some puppeteers to move back and forth between the two sets.
- Linda Bove as Linda
- Northern Calloway as David
- Loretta Long as Susan
- Sonia Manzano as Maria
- Bob McGrath as Bob
- Roscoe Orman as Gordon
- Alaina Reed as Olivia
- Aram Chowdhury as Prince Sahu
- James Mason as Egyptian Demon
- Fritz Weaver as Osiris
- Paul Dooley as Museum Guard
- Li Alexander, Jason Paul Janzer, Nadia Jones, Mika Kakizaki, David Zetlin-Jones, Andrew Cassese
- Caroline Kennedy (uncredited cameo)
- Conceived and Written by Tony Geiss
- Produced by Lisa Simon, Arlene Sherman, Tony Geiss
- Music by Tony Geiss, Stephen Lawrence, Christopher Cerf, Dick Lieb
- Arranger and Conductor: Dick Lieb
- Music Coordinator: Danny Epstein
- Music Assistant: Dave Conner
- Associte Directors: Robert J. Emerick, Ted May
- 2nd Unit Director: Emily Squires
- Art Director: Victor DiNapoli
- Muppets by Caroly Wilcox, Kermit Love, Donald Sahlin, with Ed Christie, Cheryl Blalock, Richard Termine, Noel MacNeal
- Production Stage Manager: Chet O'Brien
- Stage Manager: Niles Goodsite
- Set Decorator: Nat Mongioi
- Costume Designer: Bill Kellard
- Assistant to the Producers: Cheryl Ann Jung
- Production Assistants: Diane Mitchell, Mercedes Polanco, Thelma Moses, Danette Morganelli, Lynn Roberge, Stuart Lowery, Richard Grigonis
- Wardrobe: Grisha Mynova
- Audio: Blake Norton
- Mobile Facilities provided by Reeves Teletape
- Sound Effects: Dick Maitland
- Executive Producer: Dulcy Singer
- Directed by Jon Stone
- For the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
- Coordinating Producer: Caroline Kennedy
- Tony Geiss papers at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University
- Jim Henson's Red Book - "7/–/1983 – ‘Taping for Please Don’t Eat the Pictures at the Met. For SS Special – talk to Karl Katz during that – begin Muppetamia.’"
- Slate footage seen in Old School: Volume 1 DVD trailer
- Puppet Tears interview with Martin P. Robinson