Displaying a car with the door open–how to keep people out

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    • #132555
      Deena Sasser

      We’re getting a loaned vehicle that I want to display with one of the doors open, but I’m getting shot down because people have no sense of decorum in museums and will likely climb in and make themselves at home.  Any suggestions on how to display a vehicle with the doors open but still keep patrons from treating it like a jungle gym?  The rest of our autos have their doors closed and are behind (ineffectual) ropes.  Thanks!

    • #132563

      The first question I have is “Does the owner of the vehicle object to it?” The second question is “What does ineffectual mean in this case?” Have people treated the other cars like jungle gyms, or is it  occasional touching. The third question is “Are your patrons really that bad?”

      I would have thought that ropes and stanchions, and some well placed “please do not touch” signs would do the trick.


    • #132562

      Signs are not very effective in keeping people off your vehicles.

      We use several different methods. First go-to is rope it off, which is something we also use to keep people from walking into propellers. Another method is to set a vignette in such a way as to block physical access but still allow visual access. For one car we have in our Nat Parks exhibit we have a camp chair and travel gear, in another spot between an 1931 Eaglette plane and a hot air balloon basket we put fake grass and a picnic spread. In another automobile we have things on the seats: a camera, hats, maps, etc. These methods deter all but the most determined “look at me driving/flying this antique” visitors. Last method we use is height, if people can’t get into the vehicle without a lot of effort or climbing they will just look and move on. we have put planes and autos on blocks to give them just enough lift to keep people out.

      Leanne Wright

      Collection Manager

      Poplar Grove Vintage Wings & Wheels

    • #132561
      Deena Sasser

      Thanks for your feedback.  Sadly yes, our patrons are that bad.  We found someone on the very top of a locomotive a week ago.  We have frequent problems with people disregarding chains, stanchions, ropes, caution tape, etc.  There are no steps to many of our rail cars, and yet people will haul themselves up onto them, climbing over railings, too.  It’s a nightmare.  I have suggested placing a dummy in the driver’s seat, but we don’t have a full body mannequin right now and we can’t really justify the cost at this time.  I also suggested putting a stuffed sheepdog on the seat with a clock around its neck or a fake case of plutonium (guess what kind of car it is?).  I was half kidding, but only half.  I may try to revisit the vignette idea.  I don’t want to cheese it up (the dog), but in the interest of preserving the vehicle, I may have to find a middle ground.

      The owner of the car is adamant that people not get in it.  It’s a pop culture icon, so people will want to act like they’re in the movie and get inside.

    • #132560

      Instead of a mannequin, have you thought of having a lifesize cut out flat panel, painted to look like a character from the film. Then place an angled seat alongside it, so that people can sit on that and pose next to the character. A photo from the side will make it look as though they’re in the car.  Charge for the privilege ! Have a side panel on the seat so they can’t lean over into the car.


    • #132559
      Amber Skantz

      I’d recommend a vignette as well. While working at a living history farm, we did the same with period wagons and carts: we found that if they were full of “what they might have been full of back in the day”, it discouraged patrons from climbing in, or turning a blind eye to their children climbing in. And, a little bit of cheesey factor wouldn’t be misplaced, if I have guessed what kind of car it is, “Doc” wouldn’t mind. You’re on the right track, I think, with the fake plutonium and the sheepdog-if it were me, I would definitely use the film as contextual clues, such as what sorts of things could have been transported in the car, from the times/places it has been? Good luck!

    • #132558

      You all have given me a lot to think about. I suppose I have been privileged to live in  an area where, as part of many school field trips, most students are taught at least some museum etiquette.  An added bonus (or unfortunate reality) depending on your views, is the dearth of security people/docents/gallery attendants that are able to monitor visitors. But I suppose this may be  a topic for a separate thread.


      For a full-body mannequin, do you have any connections at nearby museums who may be willing to loan one? I know there may be issues in terms of protecting the car, but what about a local clothing retailer?

    • #132557
      Deena Sasser

      I actually came up with a solution last night.  We’re going to get a simple motion sensor alarm that can sit on the dash but will emit a loud sound if someone tries to get inside.

      Abigail, consider yourself lucky.  I’m appalled at how little regard is paid to priceless (and even non-priceless) artifacts in museums.  We’ve forgotten the primary edict of museum visitorship: do not touch.

      Thank you all for your input.  We may still stage a vignette in addition to the alarm.

    • #132556

      You are wise to consider the vignette as well as the alarm.  In my experience, alarms only work if staff responds immediately.  If no one shows up, the public quickly becomes aware of the fact that its all for show, and you will hear it going off all day long.  And the staff will complain about the noise!

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