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Museum stories of the worst museumgoers security guards have seen

You would think that museumgoers would know how to behave themselves—but these museum stories would prove you wrong.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson
NYC Panorama at the Queens Museum of Art

Not all visitors are on their best behavior in New York museums. Time Out asked museum security guards to share the worst or most bizarre museumgoer transgressions they’ve experienced—read on for stories of nudity inspired by Marina Abramovic, vandalism and more.

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The Morgan Library & Museum

“We spend 90 minutes looking at one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, at 1,000-year-old books decorated with gold, at a secret staircase; yet often what most impresses the students who visit is the automatic toilets in the bathroom. The kids usually come piling out saying, ‘Even the bathrooms are so fancy! The toilet flushes on its own!’ They also always think that the water fountains are made of gold.”—Nicole Haroutunian, museum educator, the Morgan Library & Museum

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Murray Hill

Queens Museum of Art

“Keeping New York City clean is a tough job, even when it’s the Queens Museum’s 9,335-square-foot Panorama of the City of New York. Over the years, the museum’s maintainers have removed countless pens and pencils, paper airplanes, coins from all over the world, eyeglasses and even a few cell phones [from the work]. But on two separate occasions, the catch of the day caught our team by surprise: a condom, unpackaged, in the Hudson River and a pair of women’s underwear in Washington Heights.”—David Strauss, director of external affairs, Queens Museum

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Bronx Museum of the Arts

“We screen the calls that come in to the reception desk, and one day, we had a person asking questions about how they could rent the entire museum for 24 hours. After asking several questions about the event, we finally figured out that they wanted to have a funerary viewing. I had to tell them I didn’t think the museum was equipped.“—Moises Rivera, deputy chief of security, Bronx Museum of the Arts

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The Bronx

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

“[Performance artist] Marina Abramovic attracted a lot of people from all over the country. Two days before the exhibition ended, a lady waited all day and couldn’t get her time. She said she was going to sleep outside the museum all night so she’d be first in line for the final day. The next morning, she was the first person queued up. As she approached Marina, she started taking off her clothes. The security officers surrounded her and covered her up. She said, ‘This is what Marina likes! I’m performing too.’ We managed to get her to put her clothes back on, but she started crying when we had to ask her to leave.”—Tunji Adeniji, director of facilities and safety, MoMA

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Midtown West