Tourist blunder reminds museum patrons of most important rule

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's made headlines around the world. A curious American tourist touched an ancient statue at a museum in Italy, and broke a finger off the statue.

By now, many people, who love visiting the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City have heard about the that American surgeon, and his blunder when he  recently touched a 600-year-old, marble statue at a museum in Florence, Italy.

The statue, which is thought to depict the Virgin Mary, dates back to the 14th or 15th century, although the finger that broke was a replacement. The finger-breaking suspect, 55-year-old Patrick Broderick was born in Missouri, but currently lives in Connecticut.

‘Do not touch’ is the basic, but all important rule to remember when you're in museums. At the 90-year-old Nelson Atkins, where about 1,500 people visit every day. That's more than 400,000 a year. Reminding visitors not to reach out and touch the amazing sculptures and precious paintings is a top priority.

At the Nelson Atkins, 80 security officers walk around the galleries and exhibit halls, making sure visitors keep their hands to themselves. It's all about keeping these priceless works of art safe.

"It can easily happen by accident.  We try to imagine what a visitor might do, so we try to be preventive in that way.'" Elisabeth Batchelor, the museum’s Director of Conservation, said.

Batchelor said they've never had a visitor damage a statue. But, they want curious souls to know when you are tempted to touch these treasures, remember you can instantly damage them.

Outside, surveillance cameras are always watching. So if you get too close to a work of art, the voice of an out of sight security officer will immediately ask you to step back.

Investigators said when Broderick was arrested; he told Italian police that he was apparently measuring his hand next to the statue when the statue's finger snapped. Even though he apologized, Broderick could still face a hefty fine.

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