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    23 Secrets Museum Stewards Will Never Tell You


    1. The reason we don’t want you to take pictures isn’t ~always~ because it damages the artwork.

    Matt Biddulph / Via Flickr: mbiddulph

    In some places like historic houses, and new popular exhibitions, thousands of visitors taking pictures really slows down the flow of people. Banning photography keeps the crowds moving along. And then we can sell postcards of the paintings in the gift shop.

    2. You can’t touch things because your hands are gross.

    Les Chatfield / Via Flickr: elsie

    Even if your hands seem clean, the oils and sweat in them can really damage a piece of artwork over a relatively short period of time. This is why we wear those fancy white gloves while touching anything.

    3. Parents who let their kids run around behind the barriers and touch things are the absolute worst.

    Son of Groucho / Via Flickr: sonofgroucho

    Please don't shout at us when we tell your kids not to touch things.

    4. There are tonnes of incredible things not on display that we keep in storage.

    5. Stuff gets broken a lot more than you think.

    6. And gum is the gross bane of our lives.

    Seabamirum / Via Flickr: seabamirum

    People will genuinely stick it to anything and it is absolutely gross to get out of a carpet.

    7. Being a museum steward can be a really, really boring job.

    Francisco Osorio / Via Flickr: francisco_osorio

    Most of our job is standing in a room stopping people from touching things and responding to the odd question. We might be passionate about history or art but after hours looking at the same 12 paintings even the biggest fan can get bored.

    8. And it’s surprisingly tiring just watching hundreds of people walk past you all day.

    Museum Gifs / Via

    It was in some ways more exhausting than when I worked in retail because sometimes you're not really doing anything. It is mentally exhausting and museum fatigue is REAL.

    9. So we do really weird things to pass the time.

    david__jones / Via Flickr: cloudsoup

    I developed a series of games to pass the time, like counting the number of shells on the ceiling, counting the number of flowers in a painting, and mentally planning the layout of my dream house.

    10. Even though it looks like we're just standing still, we often walk MILES in a day.

    Museum GIFs / Via

    If you're in a place where you're allowed to pace around a gallery you can cover some series mileage. One day I wore a pedometer and walked five miles just from pacing up and down the rooms. I also used to play games like "How many steps will it take to get across this room before someone asks me a question?"

    11. We have loads of secret radio codes you would hear over the loudspeakers and not know the meaning of.

    12. And steward radios are commonly pranked.

    Brett Neilson / Via Flickr: brettneilson

    There was a genuine problem with people meowing down the radios at a place I worked.

    13. People get banned from museums for the most bizarre things.

    Paul Simpson / Via Flickr: paulsimpson1976

    At the place I worked at we had a load of pictures in the staff room of people who were banned for life for being drunk and disorderly. At a museum primarily aimed at children.

    14. But people do quite regularly piss themselves.

    Diego González / Via Flickr: n2h

    We got trained in how to deal with this without causing too much of a fuss.

    15. Sometimes we secretly play ridiculous games with our colleagues.

    Steven Depolo / Via Flickr: stevendepolo

    Like who can get more people to believe the most ridiculous fact.

    16. Because if you say a completely made-up fact with conviction people will believe you.

    djLicious / Via Flickr: djlicious

    Sometimes we make up facts for fun, sometimes in a panic. I used to work with a person who would try to convince people that this one quite famous painting was about 30 different people, he'd tell each visitor it was a different person. Nobody ever corrected him.

    17. And we have sneaky little signals and gestures we make across the rooms to our colleagues when we can see each other.

    Gregg O'Connell / Via

    Especially to signify the presence of a hot visitor…

    18. The gift shop and cafe make A LOT of money from kids.

    camknows / Via Flickr: camknows

    School kids spend a lot of money buying plastic tat like pencil sharpeners and erasers.

    19. You constantly overhear people bullshitting art and history to their friends and family.

    Museum GIFs / Via

    Everyone loves to pretend to know about stuff.

    20. Almost everyone asks the same questions.

    Connie Ma / Via Flickr: ironypoisoning

    If you're standing in front of one painting or artefact it's pretty much a guarantee that half the people who walk past are going to ask you who painted it. You end up being on autopilot.

    21. And often people don’t really care about the answer.

    Kārlis Dambrāns / Via Flickr: janitors

    People will regularly ask you something for the sake of it and then completely glaze over while you're telling the answer.

    22. The worst people on earth are the ones who ask questions with the intention of catching you out.

    Paul Hudson / Via Flickr: pahudson

    Occasionally someone who is clearly an armchair expert on the thing you're standing in front of will come and quiz you relentlessly to try and see how much you know, then correct you if you're wrong. These people suck so much.

    23. But nothing makes our day more than talking to a visitor who is really excited and enthusiastic!

    Josh Staiger / Via Flickr: joshstaiger

    Feel free to chat to the staff next time you go to a museum – they're probably bored out of their minds.

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