museum of folly | stuff and nonsense

7 museum of folly

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Museum signage, 21st century


Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Colors on mixed media

A delegation from the Museum of Folly recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Italy, where we were startled to discover these signs in the Vatican Museums. The signs bear an unexpected resemblance to our museum’s own stairway sign (visible in the right sidebar).

While we encourage sharing, there had been little indication prior to this point that the Vatican Museums had taken an interest in the Museum of Folly. After all, they are experts in folly in their own right (just check out their object labels, which appear to date from roughly the time of Galileo). But then we realized that, as befits a museum in which every square inch is a masterpiece and every visitor experience is torture, their stairway surfer sign is better than ours.

Our label guidelines discourage evaluative judgments but there is no getting around the fact that our stairway sign looks stiff and clumsy compared to their more fluid and expressive version. We are humbled.

We were humbled, too, on continuing our travels and finding the following helpful sign at the Marina Piccola in Sorrento on the Amalfi peninsula. How clearly it conveys the prohibition “Diving from the pier is not allowed except in motor vehicles!” In short, Italy had much to teach us, and we have resolved to upgrade our own signage to the higher standard we discovered via our grand tour.