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12 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Museums

If all you know about working at a museum comes from Ross on the TV series Friends or the movie Night at the Museum, then you don’t really know what it’s like to work at a museum. Museums vary by what they display: art, historical artifacts, dinosaur bones, etc. and people hold different jobs within an institution. But here are a few secrets they don’t mind letting you know.

2. EXHIBITS CAN TAKE A REALLY, REALLY LONG TIME TO SET UP.

It can take weeks to set up exhibits—and it’s not a regular nine-to-five kind of job. Ivan Campbell, who works as the technical coordinator at the National Geographic Museum, told the Washington Post that one particular exhibit, Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeology, came to the museum in 12 tractor-trailers and took workers a solid three weeks of 10-hour shifts to set up. Other exhibits are even more time-consuming—when the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium wanted to house an exhibit about the Titanic, the largest show the museum had ever seen, the museum had to completely remodel most of its second floor to make room. All told, it took museum staff more than eight months to prep the museum and set up the exhibit.

6. THEY SOMETIMES HOUSE DANGEROUS ARTIFACTS.

Museums can be home to any number of potentially dangerous artifacts, such as historic weaponry or live crocodiles. But occasionally, artifacts that might not seem particularly dangerous can also be deadly. Take the London Science Museum’s collection of materials used by the 19th-century scientist Sir William Crookes, for example. Crookes was the first person to discover thallium, a poisonous element, and the first to build cathode-ray tubes, which went on to be used in televisions and computers. Crooke also wasn’t particularly neat during his experiments with dangerous elements like thallium and radium—meaning a lot of his equipment is still contaminated with radioactive material.

Read the rest of the secrets of museum employees at mental_floss.

(Image credit: Gorup de Besanez)


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