Don't Touch Shit At Museums

Somebody getting close, but no closer than appropriate to a painting at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo via Getty.
Somebody getting close, but no closer than appropriate to a painting at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo via Getty.

Nobody should need this reminder, and yet here we are.

The New York Times reports on a string of viral oopsie-daisies at museums around the world. One particularly painful example:

Last month, two boys used a sharp object to outline a 5,000-year-old historical carving in Norway thought to be among the earliest depictions of skiing anywhere in the world, The Telegraph reported. They apparently intended to “fix” it to make it more visible, but permanently defaced the carving, on the island of Tro.


Perhaps you also saw the one about the woman who filled in the crossword puzzle that was in fact art, or the fellow who started fiddling with a wooden clock at the National Watch and Clock Museum and accidentally knocked it off the wall. People: Don’t touch things at museums, unless you’re somewhere it’s specifically encouraged, like a children’s museum.

A common thread through many of these stories: selfies. For instance, in 2014, a man reportedly broke the leg off a Greek statue while trying to climb it for a photo opp. Luckily it was a copy, but one wonders if he knew that at the time. It’s not just museums where people are showing a distinct like of awareness of how to act, either. For instance, there was the dude who reportedly smashed a statue at a Portuguese railway station while trying to take a selfie; there were the American tourists who allegedly added a little graffiti to the Colosseum before getting their shot.

People: Don’t damage anything in your quest for the perfect selfie, especially not art.

Museum security expert Steve Keller told the Times this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. “You can’t protect every object on display and guarantee it will not be damaged,” he admitted. “That is the nature of display.” And Jim Coddington, chief conservator at MOMA, put a positive spin on the viral anecdotes: “I think the first and most important point is that events like these are outliers. While they trend on social media, they do so because they are highly unusual.”

But consider this your reminder not to touch shit in museums, and if you do, and you damage said shit, know that you will be roasted from the hilltops via social media.

Senior Editor at Jezebel, specializing in books, royals, romance novels, houses, history, and the stories we tell about domesticity and femininity. Resident Windsor expert.



Story time:

My bf and I were at Brooklyn Museum about a month ago. We go frequently, it’s a really great one.

The exhibit was Tom Sachs’ Boombox Retrospective (still there til next week I think?)—amazing art pieces playing music, one had a screen showing the sound wave. My bf thought it was an interactive exhibit and proceeded to beat on the side of it to make the sound wave line jump until a docent told him to stop.

I was MORTIFIED. It was horrible. I was so pissed at him I cried.

Moral of the story: do not embarrass me in public or I will cry.