Here's why your kids—and you, parents—should look but not touch (or photograph!) exhibits.

By Melissa Willets

When I was a child, my dad lifted me over the fence of a zoo enclosure onto the back of a giant tortoise—because he thought it was funny. Now that I'm a parent, I can't help but wonder, um, what the hell?

My childhood experience made me shake my head, but sort of get it, when I read that the coffin of a prominent monk at the Prittlewell Priory, a museum in Southend-on-Sea in Britain, was damaged recently after parents placed their child in it (gah!) for a picture.

Can we take this opportunity to remind families that historical exhibits aren't meant to act as selfie props? Nor are tortoises, FYI (Dad!).

Here's the coffin before the damage:

Southend-on-Sea Borough

And after:

Southend-on-Sea Borough

Obviously the damage is minor, as Southend-on-Sea Borough Council admits on its Tumblr page. But still: why, parents? This coffin is eight centuries old! Putting your child inside it for photo probably wasn't necessary. And actually, it may have even been traumatizing!

Ann Holland, Executive Councillor for Culture, said in a statement in part that the museum's conservator had assessed the damage to the coffin, adding, "Fortunately we predict the costs will be negligible. To prevent future damage we also now feel that the coffin needs to be completely enclosed and the Curatorial Team are assessing how this can best be done." She also said, "We would like to remind all visitors that they should observe and respect any barriers and signs in place that are there to protect our important heritage and history."

RELATED: Great Museums for Families

It seems these parents (and my dad) aren't the only ones who need a quick reminder that exhibits should be seen and not touched, or used as a backdrop for a unique selfie. AsThe New York Times reports, last year parents videotaped their two kids touching the "Angel Is Waiting" sculpture by Shelly Xue at the Shanghai Museum of Glass. Unfortunately, one of the children pulled the sculpture away from the wall, and it fell and broke.

In the end, it seems the best advice for parents and kids is that if are visiting a museum, zoo, or park, you can still have a great time without putting yourself or the exhibits at risk of being harmed in any way. AmIright? Dad, are you reading this?

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If you must touch, visit one of these hands-on museums for families.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger/mom. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.



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