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The Impact of a Great Art Museum: Intrigue, Wonder, and Missing Pants

Lost Objects Graph
Guest Services representative Steve Pelphrey is often the receiver of lost items.

Guest Services representative Steve Pelphrey is often the receiver of lost items.

As an institution, Crystal Bridges aims to educate, transform, and inspire. I’ve encountered many forms of inspiration while working here: thought-provoking artworks, alluring trails, breathtaking architecture, and intriguing stories. I’ve even experienced wonder while engaged in seemingly mundane tasks, like sorting the lost and found.

In the nearly two years that the Museum has been open to the public, we have had several thousand items circulate through the lost and found. Most of these objects were recovered by their owners, usually mere minutes after their disjunction. (The brevity of these separations usually did little to temper the property owners’ panic. I’ve seen Museum guests longingly clutch cellular phones to their chests with the same aching relief that you’d expect from a parent reunited with a lost child. Bringing loved ones together—it’s a beautiful thing.)

With such a high volume of wandering objects, we needed a reliable system for tracking everything. And so the Lost and Found Log was born. When something finds its way to our Guest Services desk, it is immediately logged, tagged, and stored. Documenting these lost items helps us ensure that they are cared for and safely returned to the correct individuals.

So far, the Lost and Found Log has functioned perfectly; it has also been a source of entertaining statistics.

Lost Objects Graph The most popular items to lose track of while visiting Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art are sunglasses, single earrings, and cell phones, but they only account for 21% of all missing items. The remaining 79% of the Lost and Found Log represents a wide array of misplaced possessions ranging from baby toys to tubes of Orajel. Our storage bin has even been graced with the presence of one Rubik’s cube, four mate-less shoes, and one pair of gray men’s dress pantsCase.Dighero_300 (later claimed by Director of Culinary Services, Case Dighero).

I enjoy looking through the lost and found log because it makes me curious. Babies are active, and from time to time a shoe will go missing from the stroller, but where did the size six women’s pump come from? What type of individual brings a tire gauge to an art gallery? And, how exactly does one misplace their pants?

NOTE: Some Crystal Bridges employees have incredibly active jobs. As a result, they are occasionally required to undergo more quick changes in a day than an actor during a staged performance. To date, no guests have encountered pant-less staff members meandering about the corridors. Illustration by Hilary Hutter.

NOTE: Some Crystal Bridges employees have incredibly active jobs. As a result, they are occasionally required to undergo more quick changes in a day than an actor during a staged performance. To date, no guests have encountered pant-less staff members meandering about the corridors. Illustration by Hilary Hutter.

These peculiar objects paint an incomplete picture that really makes you stop and wonder. Inspiration truly is everywhere at Crystal Bridges—sometimes you can even dig through a bin of sweaters and find it.

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