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profen4
09-23-2010, 05:09 PM
I'm trying to think of an interesting Museum exhibit that would:

a) be valuable enough for dangerous people to want to steal
b) not be egyptian or jewels, (I am trying to think of something original) but it does have to appeal to thieves, so it has to be something that has street value.
c) ideally NOT something kids would find the least bit interesting, and that it would be targeted for theft seems ridiculous (to them).



Thanks guys. I've been to a few museums in the last couple days and I'm not seeing anything theft-worthy.

MissMacchiato
09-23-2010, 05:15 PM
hmm. Street value is hard. A lot of things simply wouldn't be possible to resell, so that cuts out pretty much any painting.

Buddha heads from Thailand are worth quite a bit, and they're frequently looted.

Does it have to be from a particular country? I have a masters in museum studies so I should be able to think of a few things if you give me the constraints that you want to within :)

lbender
09-23-2010, 05:32 PM
Something that kids might find unappealing, but have significant value - how about old first editions of Dickens novels, an old O Henry manuscript, things like that. Whether they might actually exist isn't necessarily relevant as long as you're writing fiction and there are always stories about the odd collector who might pay a fortune for them.

If we're sticking to fiction, you might as well invent an original handwritten copy of Romeo & Juliet in Shakespeare's hand...although some kids might find that interesting.

Ferret
09-23-2010, 05:35 PM
A fossil might work. You couldn't sell it on the street, but if you had an interested buyer, some could go for a lot. Some kids would find some fossils interesting, but I'm sure you could find a boring one that no kid would care about.

profen4
09-23-2010, 05:38 PM
hmm. Street value is hard. A lot of things simply wouldn't be possible to resell, so that cuts out pretty much any painting.

Buddha heads from Thailand are worth quite a bit, and they're frequently looted.

Does it have to be from a particular country? I have a masters in museum studies so I should be able to think of a few things if you give me the constraints that you want to within :)

Great idea. Thank you. The only real constraint I'm under is that I need it to be on display at a canadian museum. But it can be on loan, of part of a limited time display (if that sort of thing happens). And I need dangerous thieves to see it as significantly valuable that they would be willing to try twice to steal it. The first will be thwarted, and the second time security will be tighter.

If there was something that ALMOST NEVER goes on tour, that would be great.

It's okay if it doesn't have a value to laymen, but I need it to be of significant value that it's believable that someone would be willing to pay for it, and that thieves would be willing to kill for it--but again, ideally, I don't want kids to think it worth anything.

I like the Buddha head idea. is there any that are on display in a museum that are especially valuable?

GeorgeK
09-23-2010, 06:00 PM
A precolumbian idol? Some of those things were just ugly. I could easily see kids thinking it was worthless, whereas there is a hefty black market in them, or so I've been told.

MissMacchiato
09-23-2010, 06:04 PM
I had do to a bit of research for you, but here's what I found.

It's illegal to take them out of the country since it's difficult to prove providence and that they're not ancient monuments.

I couldn't find any definitive info on pricing since that's black market info, and of course, they focus on the artistic or cultural/historic value as being priceless, rather than monetary value, but they're sold for very, very little in their countries of origin (Thailand and Cambodia are good examples),

famous ones might include this one in the British museum:
http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/events_calendar/july_2010/borobudur_buddha_head.aspx

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/CPbWMMoFSnmUlSHF3dkf5A

or you could try this one:
http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/asia/asia_features/buddhism/cave_temple/360_buddha/index.html


and this was an interesting snippet about a buddha head theft in India:
http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-18352673_ITM

Other than that, you can always make one up, there are literally hundreds of them.

another idea is a first folio of shakespeare's works. I heard one went for about 2.8 million in 2006, so at least you'd have a price range for that!

Linda Adams
09-23-2010, 06:17 PM
You might want to read the book the $12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark (http://www.amazon.com/Million-Stuffed-Shark-Economics-Contemporary/dp/0230610226). It talks about how art gets priced, and in some cases, some very ridiculous ways it gets priced. Also hit some books on frauds and forgeries in the art world.

On the suggestion side, I'd go with modern art. I still remember getting dragged to the Pasadena Art Museum (now Norton Simon) when I was a kid and bored to death by the modern art. Most of it seems to need to be interpreted, and that's hard for a kid to do. The most interesting thing I saw was a hump in the floor. It had rained and the roof leaked, causing the hump.

Some ideas:

* A blank canvas. Yes, I have seen a blank canvas in a major art museum. It looked like the most time the artist spent was coming up with a name. Think I could send an agent a ream of paper and give it a great title? :)

* A painting with a single dot in the middle of a canvas. Same art museum.

* A painting with a bicycle tread across the center. My father saw that one in a major art museum. His comment: "I could have made it myself."

* Andy Warhol's tomato soup can. Even as an adult, I'm wondering why painting a picture of a product from the grocery store rates as a major art work worth tons of money.

The only real requirement of the art is that someone thinks it's valuable--not that it stands the test of time. Something can get bought in an auction for a lot of money but not hold its value over time. All people need to do is get bidding fever, and it looks like the painting is valuable.

Cyia
09-23-2010, 08:04 PM
A jewel encrusted turtle. Yes it's weird, but that's where my brain went -- claim it's the long dead pet of some ancient king or queen or whatever.

An Incan relic of some sort, if you want to add mysticism to the equation or maybe soemthing Rapa Nui, like a smaller version of one of the heads.

A piece of a meteorite. It could be something with unusual properties (most meteorites aren't very large when they reach the ground, so they'd be portable). Or it could even be something sacred if it was the "super sacred meteorite to fullfil the ancient prophecy of the Jaguar king" or some such. (you know, a streak of fire raging in the sky at the right time or something). You could even give it its own history, like it was the harbinger of doom seen just before European ships arrived in the Americas or something.

A single stone from an ancient priestess' necklace. It can look non-descript save what would appear to be simple scratches in a plain rock for anyone who didn't know what they were looking at. But, it could also be of great value depending on who the priestess was and what her supposed powers entailed.

A small jade figurine that might look like something you'd buy at a dollar store, but it has a history... *cue the long, detailed story of why it's worth killing / dying for, etc*

Nivarion
09-23-2010, 09:29 PM
Hehe. I saw a piece of coprolite with Amethysts go for $500 dollars. Maybe if it got some more interesting gems embedded in it like a diamond, it might be worth stealing.

My geology teacher passed out coprolite once. When he told the class what it was most of them freaked.

Coprolite, coprolite coprolite. Sounds like such a cool name for fossilized poop.

PeterL
09-23-2010, 09:35 PM
If you want it to have "street value", then I assume that it must be immediately salable and not require a knowledgeable fence. That it not be something that children would like makes it difficult. That rules out miniatures, antique weapons, statuary, and a lot more.

The best idea that I have is the antique books; although they might be treated as any other book by a child.

Shakesbear
09-23-2010, 09:36 PM
First thing I thought of was Tutankhamun's golden mask. I think it is to fragile now to go out on loan to other museums. It could be worth its' weight in gold!

Kenn
09-23-2010, 09:47 PM
I imagine that a lot of things stolen from museums are stolen to order for private collections. The only reason anything is valuable in a museum is because somebody else wants it. How about a death mask of someone famous? If it was a cult figure (somebody like John Lennon or Marilyn Monroe, say) a fanatical collector would give anything for it.

profen4
09-23-2010, 09:56 PM
okay, I had another thought that spun out from some of the posts above. I was in Turkey a few weeks ago and I went to a museum (of sorts) where a chunk of hair from the beard of Muhammad was on display. It was the most popular exhibit.

I'm not really interested in doing a book about muslim extremists killing to get the beard, but can you guys think of another religious group that might have a connection to an item that some more devout followers might be willing to kill to get? I'd like a scene where someone makes light of the object and I can hint who the thieves are by having them sneer at the person who spoke (they'd be there casing the place).

Thoughts?

ALSO - to those in the know about museums, are there ever any groups who oppose items being in museums because they don't think the museum has the right to display them? I want to make the thieves motivations something that kids might understand. I enjoy stories with likable villains.

GeorgeK
09-23-2010, 10:08 PM
There's always someone who opposes something, so there probably is such a group although the only protests that I've heard of were about whose museum the item should be in, not that it is simply on display. On second thought there are those opposed to exhibiting mummys and want them to be returned for burial. You could have an urn that supposedly contains ashes of a cult leader and the cultists want it back.

PeterL
09-23-2010, 10:15 PM
I'm not really interested in doing a book about muslim extremists killing to get the beard, but can you guys think of another religious group that might have a connection to an item that some more devout followers might be willing to kill to get? I'd like a scene where someone makes light of the object and I can hint who the thieves are by having them sneer at the person who spoke (they'd be there casing the place).

Thoughts?


Someone claims to have the second draft of Salomon Spaulding's romance that Joseph Smith stole and spun into the Book of Mormon. The Mormons would do anything to keep that secret or to destroy it. There might be some little museum in Upstate New York where someone donated the papers of Spauldin's wife after she went back to her family home. The curator might scan the manuscript to ensure that it would not be lost, and it is falling apaart almost two hundred years after it was written.

Cyia
09-23-2010, 10:17 PM
ALSO - to those in the know about museums, are there ever any groups who oppose items being in museums because they don't think the museum has the right to display them? I want to make the thieves motivations something that kids might understand. I enjoy stories with likable villains.

You can have issues if the piece on display is not something native to the country in which it is displayed (like the massive amounts of Egyptian material in the British Museum)

Also, there can be issues with displaying bodies without respect for their burial customs (again, like mummies being unwrapped and laid bare in glass cases)

There are some smaller / almost decimated Native American tribes that have barely any of their own artifacts left because they were lost when they were forced off their land. I can see someone wanting to return those to their original owners' descendants. Private collectors go rabid for that sort of thing because they're so rare.

I'm not sure if anyone else used canopic jars or something similar, but the literal heart of a great leader could be something turned into an icon or relic. (Of course, the heart was left in the mummy, so the jars are beside the point.)

Maybe the Hair of Mary Magdelen, because it was used to dry Jesus' feet could be of importance to someone who wanted to make it an icon.

A beard supposedly belonging to Merlin (Myrddin).

Samson's hair, clipped by Delilah, could be used if someone thought it would give them great strength.

A jar supposedly containing Manna, if someone believed it was the end of hunger, etc.

A small chair / table / stool reported to have been made by Jesus when he was a carpenter.

Linda Adams
09-23-2010, 11:04 PM
ALSO - to those in the know about museums, are there ever any groups who oppose items being in museums because they don't think the museum has the right to display them? I want to make the thieves motivations something that kids might understand. I enjoy stories with likable villains.

Archeological finds might be more appropriate than art. There's a lot of controversy about that--who owns the artifacts, should people being taking them from graves, etc. There's a book called Finders Keepers that questions the ethics of removing artifacts from the site, even when it is for more study. Your villains could be people who want to return the artifacts to their proper resting place, or even people who question the provenance.

Provenance is a huge issue, for both art and artifacts. That's the ownership history, and some items in museums may have come in that direction because of theft. Huge problem in the museum world. Sometimes well-meaning--and not so well-meaning--people took artifacts and gave them to the museum, and they didn't own the items in the first place. Sometimes the then curators know that the provenance is questionable and still take the piece anyway. Returning Art: No Easy Answers (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/27/arts/design/27ethi.html).

Ariella
09-23-2010, 11:15 PM
What about a piece of enriched uranium in a science museum? To kids it looks like a boring lump of metal, but to nefarious thieves or anti-nuclear activists it means something else entirely.

Of course, this would present you with some interesting plot problems, since enriched uranium is both very heavy and radioactive.

Kenn
09-23-2010, 11:33 PM
Ariella, nuclear safeguards regulations would prohibit anything like that. In fact, the authorities would probably have a fit just thinking about it (and trying to work out where it came from!).

Ariella
09-24-2010, 12:57 AM
Ariella, nuclear safeguards regulations would prohibit anything like that. In fact, the authorities would probably have a fit just thinking about it (and trying to work out where it came from!).

Pity. Or rather, that's too bad for the plot but definitely a good thing for civilization as we know it. ;)

Maybe human remains from a native leader would fit the bill. You could base it on the story of Tecumseh's Bones (http://books.google.ca/books?id=X-DznQ78Ac8C&lpg=PP1&pg=PP19#v=onepage&q&f=false). Tecumseh was a Shawnee leader who was killed while fighting for the British during the war of 1812 and buried in secret by his native troops. At various points, nineteenth-century American political partisans have wanted to exhume him to prove that their candidate had killed him, assorted Ontarians have wanted to place his bones in a war monument, and native groups have tried to ensure that he continues to rest in hidden peace. Displaying bones or artifacts associated with Tecumseh or someone similar would definitely create immediate opportunities for conflict.

jclarkdawe
09-24-2010, 01:09 AM
If you want something a bit different, kids will think the people interested in it are nerds, can be priced anywhere up to a million without a problem, can be sold overseas illegally without too much effort, think stamps. You remember those things we used to stick on snail mail. Or coin collecting. But stamps are better.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Cyia
09-24-2010, 01:28 AM
If you want something a bit different, kids will think the people interested in it are nerds, can be priced anywhere up to a million without a problem, can be sold overseas illegally without too much effort, think stamps. You remember those things we used to stick on snail mail. Or coin collecting. But stamps are better.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

CHARADE!!!

Cathy C
09-24-2010, 01:31 AM
Stamps are good but signed documents are better. How about something really rare written by George Washington, like a love letter to Martha? It could be on display with rare Americana and would be worth an amazing amount of money. Millions. Or maybe someone (in your reality) found the actual Gettysburg Address written on the train. Again, Millions.

Paper has little meaning to kids and scraps of paper even less. I mention a love letter because, depending on the age of the kids...eww! Romance! Ick. :ROFL:

RJK
09-25-2010, 01:22 AM
How about one of the Gutenberg bibles? They probably wouldn't raise much interest with kids/teens, but they'd bring millions on the black market.

profen4
09-28-2010, 10:33 PM
Thanks for all the good suggestions, guys, I really appreciate it.