Checking out the route of lost objects

Museums are used to being highly visited spaces (or at least it would be good that they were).  Through their galleries and corridors pass tens, hundreds or even thousands of people every day.  This continual traffic can lead to the fact of personal belongings being lost or left behind is very common in museums, and the Museu Picasso is no exception.  Would you like to know how the lost objects are dealt with in our museum?  What do the visitors leave behind?

The team of the Picasso Museum has a very clear protocol that is always rigorously followed, irrespective of the size, shape or relevance of the object.  The only things that are not included in this procedure are food, which is directly thrown away, and documents or objects of major value, such as wallets, which we try to return to their owners as quickly as possible through the police or embassies.

The first step that has to be carried out by the museum staff on finding a mislaid object is to fill in a form in which information about the object found is registered. In this document, as well as including the date, time and name of the person who found it, should also include a very detailed description of the object in which its most relevant features are specified.  Once filled in, three copies are made of the sheet: one is given to the head of the team that found the object, and the others are sent to the person responsible for the management of the public, and to the head of security of the museum.  Both the finding of the object and the object itself are therefore rigorously registered.

Once registered, the lost object is deposited in the safe of the museum for a maximum period of two weeks. If during this period the owner returns in search of the object and gives a sufficiently detailed description of the object so as to be able to identify it, the staff will hand it over immediately.  If, however, after a fortnight nobody has reclaimed it, the object is passed to the Lost Property Office of the City Council of Barcelona that, from that moment on, includes it in its deposit and deals with any possible returns.

What possible objects do you think are lost or left behind by the visitors of the Museu Picasso?

The most common things tend to be complementary items of person use: jewellery (earrings, rings, necklaces), umbrellas, scarves, gloves, sunglasses, tiaras, clips, hair slides, etc.  It is also very usual to find travel guides.  On the other hand, in the summer, people often leave their food for picnics: sandwiches, fruit, food boxes, or even bags of olives or a tray of sushi.  It is also worth mentioning that in the summer many people come to the museum directly from the beach and often leave behind their beach towels full of sand, and other things such as flip-flops, sun cream etc.

In which spaces are most things lost or left behind by the visitors?

Lost belongings can be found in almost every corner of the museum, but the most usual are those places where the visitors take a longish break, when they usually take out or make use of their personal effects: in the toilets, on the benches placed around the museum, in the medieval courtyards, in the cafeteria or in the cloakroom.  It is precisely in this last space where currently most headaches are caused in terms of the management of lost property.  Some months ago some lockers were incorporated which work with coins, and that, for security reasons, have to be left empty at the end of the day.   Often, the visitors forget to collect what they left there, and go away with the key without realising.  This obliges the staff to break the lock and to install a new one each time an oversight takes place.  This is undoubtedly the most disagreeable part of a protocol that aims to help visitors get back their belongings that they forgot as quickly as possible, so as to avoid in this way, the misfortune and bad feeling that the loss of a valued possession always causes.

Martí Casas

Carrying out professional practice at the Picasso Museum as part of his Masters Degree in Cultural Heritage Management from the University of Barcelona.

Have you ever lost a personal object in a museum?  Did you manage to get it back?

What do you think of the protocol we have at the Museu Picasso?

  • José Vale
    January 28, 2011

    Please forgive me for addressing you in English. I am Portuguese and understand a litle Catalan but not enough to write in your language.
    I just would like to make a suggestion concerning “los armariets” and its “claus”. Why don’t you put alarms on the “claus” so that when a visitor who has forgotten to collect his/hers bellongings is leaving the museum, an alarm may go off? It would be nice for the visitor to be informed that he or she forgot to collect their personal items, and you would be saved the trouble of having to “rebentar el pany i instal·lar-ne un de nou cada vegada que hi ha un descuit”.
    Just a thought!…

    Best regards from a big fan of yours. (I’ve been at your museum last month for the “Picasso davant Degas” exhibition).


  • tatiana
    January 28, 2011

    Y estais haciendo algún trabajo a partir de las “pistas” que ofrencen los objetos perdidos respecto al público????

  • Museu Picasso
    January 28, 2011

    Thanks Jose for your input. We will send your suggestion to Visitor Services and Security to evaluate it. Hope to see you soon again!

  • Redacción del museo
    January 31, 2011

    Hola Tatiana, éste y otros aspectos relacionados con los visitantes forman parte del estudio de públicos del museo que se ha realizado durante el año 2010 y que será público en verano de 2011.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha: *