“Do Not Touch.” These are three little words that litter museums and galleries the world over. I see the point of the signs urging people not to touch things (or in some cases “Touch them with your eyes.” No, really.) but there is something alienating about seeing the message “HANDS OFF!” everywhere you look. “THIS ISN’T FOR YOU” is what comes screaming from the labels.
There are nicer ways of saying “This object/artwork/whatever is very delicate and touching it will cause damage, so please be careful. ” Maybe adding “Although you can’t touch this object, you can touch things from our handling collection…”
Sometimes though, when I see parents try to put their kids on statues so they can take a “cute photo of their trip to the museum” I totally understand why the language used is so bald. Everyone who has worked in a museum has heard the horror stories of people doing all sorts of things with the objects (and I do mean *all sorts*).
Do…Kiss the Art?
Anyway, that slight digression aside, I want to talk about what sparked this post. My friend and colleague, the lovely and ever-enthusiastic Rosie Clarke has recently returned from a trip to Amsterdam where she experienced their version of Museums at Night: Museumnacht. She brought back a brochure which featured some intriguing images:
I found these images really powerful. Just look, it’s people getting frisky with statues! There’s something really Pygmalion about it, but the message seems to be “it’s OK to be passionate about Art!” Or maybe it’s a has a more “Fall in Love with History” kind of vibe depending on who the statue is. I can’t read Dutch, so I couldn’t read the brochure to find out more about them; the concept behind the images could even have been about various night-time activities – you know the ones – and putting them in the museum-y context for the after-hours festival?
Here’s another example of someone getting close to art.
Here we see the delightful Marilyn Monroe embracing famed thrower of discuses, Discobolus. Although her embrace of the statue is more platonic than the sexually charged images above, it’s interesting to see how much fun she’s having holding the discus-thrower.
Besides, it’s always nice to have a picture of Marilyn.
Back to those three little words though… sometimes they are unavoidable, but being able to touch something really helps to form a connection, and isn’t that one thing museums strive to do? Form connections? Wouldn’t it be nice to see a little more emphasis on what you can get up close and personal with rather than what we have to keep at arms length?