What Happens If You Accidentally Damage Precious Art or Artifacts in a Museum

3 years ago

Whether you’re a visitor or an employee, museums have solutions in case someone accidentally damages unique artifacts. They work really hard to protect all their masterpieces, using different techniques, like X-ray technology. And sometimes there are even other paintings under the ones you are enjoying.

We at Bright Side are ready to reveal how museums deal with such casualties. They won’t always be kind to you, and our bonus section will tell you more.

1. If you end up breaking something in a museum, you will not be the one paying for it.

On the occasion that you unintentionally damage a unique piece of art, like a painting, a sculpture, or a vase, the museum is ultimately responsible for the restoration. They’re big institutions, and as such, they are really careful about what they keep inside. Because of this, they have special insurance policies. These contracts are unique and cover everything that you can imagine.

For that reason, the museum might make you fill out some paperwork with your name on it for insurance purposes. And while they could ban you from the museum, this is extremely rare. After that, the insurance policy will take care of all the costs needed for the restoration, whatever it takes and for however long it takes.

2. If you destroy irreplaceable artifacts, they will only give you a hard talking to, and here’s why.

When you visit a museum, you should be respectful. Whether you’re clumsy or not, you may end up breaking something important. But you don’t have to worry too much.

For the museum, all visitors are considered guests, so they are not financially responsible for the costs of restoration. Additionally, museums have grant funds to help them cover the costs of restoration and conservation.

3. If you damage something and are an employee of the museum, this is what happens.

You may be lucky enough to spend your days working inside a museum, surrounded by incredible pieces of art, enjoying history as a daily routine. Just like in any other workplace, you are allowed to make mistakes, but they can be more expensive than normal. In 2014, a janitor in an Italian museum threw a modern art piece into the trash. Unfortunately, he mistook it for a pile of garbage.

It was an unconscious move, so the museum understood the situation. Luckily for him, the museum had a special insurance policy in place in case an employee damaged an art piece. Let’s just hope he was careful from then on!

4. Museums also do the best they can to avoid accidents, and here are some examples.

For decades, museums have been improving their methods for keeping art protected. Museums like the Getty Center (in California) are resistant to fire damage thanks to their reinforced concrete walls. They also have an air system that keeps any smoke from coming inside and sprinkles as a last resort in an emergency.

The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York built a special flood wall in their new venue after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 to block a potential flood of the Hudson River. Also, whether they’re part of the windows or are in front of a painting, glass has a special UV-blocking coating. This is very important because UV rays can greatly harm the colors in paintings.

Bonus: If you break things on purpose, they won’t be so gentle and understanding.

If you explain yourself honestly, everything can be sorted out. However, if you have bad intentions and try to break or damage any kind of art in a museum, there will be consequences, just as a visitor with a selfie stick had to face the consequences of breaking a statue in Portugal. Attempting to accomplish this kind of behavior may result in you spending the night in a cell.

Likewise, if you damage public property, the city can report you. This means that there’s a high probability that you may serve a couple of years in jail.

Have you ever damaged something in public? How did you face the situation?


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