Good people are hard to come by.

After Sunday's death of Philadelphia Museum of Art director and chief executive officer Anne d'Harnoncourt, the art world was sent reeling. It will be incredibly difficult to find a replacement for the 6-foot art icon, said friends and museum officials.

"Where do you find these people?" asked museum board trustee Bruce Toll. "They don't grow on trees . . . I don't even know where to begin."

All this week he has thought about how the museum will ever replace the illustrious d'Harnoncourt, Toll said.

It seemed like she had been bred for the position, he said, referring to d'Harnoncourt's lineage - her father was the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

There will eventually be a museum search committee for a new director, board chairman H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest said through his staff.

While Lenfest will be on the committee, no decision has been made about when the committee would convene.

"It's premature to go there right now," said museum spokesman Norman Keyes.

Philly won't be the only museum looking for a new director.

In April, the Association of Art Museum Directors reported that 18 museums in the United States had openings for new directors including the National Academy Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, both in New York, and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.

"There are a lot of different ways this search can go," said Ford Bell, president of the American Association of Museums.

"Sometimes they find who they want right away. Sometimes they interview a lot of people."

A museum director is responsible for all of a museum's works of art and their preservation and exhibition, but directors are not just responsible for art-related issues anymore. They are also in charge of fundraising, staffing and other administrative duties.

The Met has been looking for a new director since Philippe de Montebello, the museum's leader for 30 years, retired to be a professor at New York University.

The Philly art museum has had two acting directors in its 131-year history.

The first, Samuel Woodhouse, served three years before the museum snagged legendary director Fiske Kimball.

"This is the Philadelphia Museum of Art," Bell said. "It's a big deal. It's a highly, highly coveted job."

While there are many talented people who could perform adequately as director of the art museum, Bell said, the sudden loss of d'Harnoncourt will make the transition more difficult than most.

Museum officials and staffers are still in shock and in the process of healing, he said.

A new Philly director will take on a tough job.

The museum is in the midst of a 10-year master plan to renovate and expand its galleries.

Fairmount Park and the museum are working together to create a landscaped parking facility and garden. The exterior of the building also will be reworked.

D'Harnoncourt lived to see the opening of the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, a product of her efforts to make the museum more accessible to the public.

It will be hard for the art community to move on from this loss, Toll said.

"She was one of a kind." *