Don’t Touch the Artifacts!

Don’t Touch the Artifacts!
Have you ever wondered why museums don’t want you to touch things? It’s not just for security reasons.

It goes without saying that museums don’t want visitors walking away with artifacts in their pockets. But even reaching over the rope to see what something feels like can cause damage to the artifact over time.

Every artifact in a museum’s collection should be handled carefully to prevent damage or destruction. There are special ways to pick up, carry, and set down an artifact. There are also certain materials that should never be touched with your bare hands, such as textiles, metal, and leather.

Art museums often do not put up physical barriers between visitors and the pieces on display. That does not mean you can touch them! Paintings are very fragile and can be irreparably damaged by hand oils, even if you don't mean to hurt it! Sculptures and statues can be accidentally knocked off their pedestals, but they can also be harmed by your fingerprints.

Only museum professionals and trained volunteers should be allowed to handle the artifacts. But it is also our responsibility to explain WHY we don’t want you to touch the artifacts.

The following text is one way to get the message across about collections care and safety. If you work in a museum, feel free to “borrow” the text for your own signage. If you’re a museum visitor, help spread the word!

Why We Ask You Not to Touch

The artifacts in our museum are important historical treasures. They are very old, and some are quite rare.

You may not realize it, but there are oils on your hands that leave invisible fingerprints on the artifacts when you touch them. Over time, these oils react with the artifacts and cause damage.

Touching the artifacts also increases the risk of breaking them.

You may notice our staff wearing white gloves when handling the artifacts. We do this to protect them.

Please help us preserve these historical treasures for many generations to come! Use your eyes to appreciate the artifacts, not your hands.

Thank you!

You Should Also Read:
Handling Artifacts Safely
Why Do Curators Wear Gloves?
BOOK REVIEW - The Care of Antiques

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This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.