This coffin was discovered in 1921 at the Prittlewell Priory, and once contained a skeleton, now believed to be the remains of a monk from the priory. The coffin was fragile, made of sandstone, and already broken in two places over time. As a precaution, the museum put up signs asking visitors not to touch the exhibits and erected a glass barrier for added protection.
Unfortunately, one couple decided that these rules were more like “suggestions” and lifted their child into the coffin to try and get a picture. One of the pieces that had already detached fell to the floor, knocking off another piece of the coffin. The family immediately left without notifying the staff, but they have been caught on security footage. Perhaps they couldn’t read, or maybe they thought that sandstone was somehow sturdy enough to hold the weight of a child. We may never find out.
The cost of repairing the coffin wouldn’t be very much at all, but the museum’s staff was more upset by the violation than the physical damage. Now, the museum plans to completely enclose the display pieces, a decision they hoped never to make.
Being able to see and experience relics from the past is important, and many people are hoping that this lesson teaches other would-be museum goers that barriers are put up for a reason.
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