Dumbasses Break 800-Year-Old Coffin by Putting a Kid in it for a Photo

Kids belong in museums. A lot of people don’t like the idea of kids at museums because they think kids might be loud or disruptive or handsy with the ancient artifacts, but most kids behave very well in museums. Kids should go to museums often. It would, however, be totally great if museums could ban dumbasses. They could start with the kind of dumbasses who give parents and children a bad name, like the museumgoers in the U.K. last week who broke an 800-year-old coffin by putting a child in it to take a photo.

According to the New York Times, the Pritwell Priory museum and park at Southend-on-Sea in Britain, about 40 miles east of London gives visitors an up-close look at what life was like in the area hundreds of years ago. One of the exhibits is an 800-year-old sandstone coffin discovered at the site in 1921. Archaeologists dug it up, along with a human skeleton.

Museum Rule #1: Don’t touch anything!

Now it’s on display in the museum. A low, clear plastic barrier separates the coffin from visitors. That barrier was a generous design on the part of the museum, because it allows visitors to look over the edge and see the coffin directly. The barrier’s meaning should have been clear, though: Look but do not touch.

But last week on Sunday a family actually picked up a small child, lifted the kid over the barrier, and stuck the kid right in the 800-year-old coffin. I guess they thought it would make a cool picture.

Sandstone is pretty fragile, and the coffin was 800 years old. When they put the kid in it, a big piece broke off the front.

Nobody saw the incident happen, but security cameras caught it. The adults’ faces weren’t visible, but footage showed the break happen. When they saw what they’d done, the parents scooped up the kid and skedaddled out of the museum without telling anybody. Apparently they’re cowards as well as dumbasses. (I can’t stop saying “Dumbass!” right now. This story has turned me into the dad from That 70s Show.)

This is what the coffin looked like before the accident:

museum coffin
Southend-on-Sea Borough

This is what it looks like afterwards:

broken museum coffin
Southend-on-Sea Borough

The child knocked off a large chunk of sandstone from the center front, on the right-hand side in this photo.

The coffin can be repaired. The museum’s faith in humanity is destroyed.

Fortunately, the family left the piece of stone behind and did not take it with them as a souvenir. The museum conservator will be able to repair it for just around $130. The museum’s faith in humanity, however, has been irreparably damaged. After repairs, the coffin will be going into an enclosed case to prevent further damage.

The museum closed the display area during repairs, so other visitors probably missed out on the chance to see it.

”The area will reopen as soon possible,” said Councillor Ann Holland. “In the meantime 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.”

Museums have signs and barriers to remind everyone not to touch anything. “Don’t touch anything” is basically the cardinal rule of museums. If these parents can’t behave in a museum, how is their kid ever going to learn?


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(Image: Southend-on-Sea Borough)

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