Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Museum heist

It's pretty gutting to hear last week that a commemorative key has been stolen from the Museum of Wellington City and Sea. The key was presented when the Wellington Town Hall was opened in 1904.

City and Sea is one of my favourite museums. When I first visited Wellington, I actually enjoyed it far more than I enjoyed Te Papa. I've never worked in a museum that's had something historically significant stolen, but I've seen or heard of plenty of minor thefts - toys from the kids' galleries, coins glued to pieces of contemporary art, on one memorable occasion an entire projector partially built into an exhibition wall. Still, such small thefts put strain in all the wrong places. I'd hate to think how the C&S staff are feeling.

It does raise some interesting question about exhibiting historical artifacts - how safe is too safe? Part of the joy of a museum is being able to get within inches of an item of huge significance. If you're locking up your most precious pieces in collection storage to keep them safely away from the public, can it still be said you're preserving these pieces from the public's benefit? And if you give any random person off the street the ability to handle those objects, are you really preserving them?

 Deep questions. Maybe we should all just play Grand Museum Theft instead.

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