The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Bizarre Laptop Policy

BradleyDay Trips, New York City12 Comments

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Sunday afternoon I went to the Met as part of an assignment from my Art History class.  I was supposed to go there, find a sculpture, either Greek, African, Indian, or Egyptian, and then write a 3 page paper detailing its form and presentation.  I had this wonderful plan in my head.  I would show up, find a sculpture, pull out my laptop, and write the paper on the spot, while looking at the piece.  I thought that would best enable me to write a good paper on the form, while looking at the form of the sculpture, there in person.  After writing the paper, or at least the first draft, I would pack my laptop back into my bag and look at the exhibits until it was time for the museum to close.  Unfortunately, things didn’t work out quite the way I’d hoped.

When I arrived at the Met, the place was packed, but that’s to be expected.  As soon as I went through the front doors, there was a security check point, also not unexpected.  When I opened my backpack for inspection and the guard started yelling “Laptop!  Laptop!  Laptop!” I was taken aback.  I half expected to be bum rushed by guards and moved to a secure inspection area.  I was shuffled off to the side, but under my own power.  I had to go to the security desk to get a yellow security exception form.  For a laptop.  I also had to open the laptop and turn it on, probably to prove that it’s a working laptop and not a shell packed with explosives.  I was fine with all this.  The Met houses an incredible amount of art of priceless value.  What bothered me, though, were the instructions I received afterward.

I was told that I had to carry my backpack in my hand.  Putting my backpack on my back was not permitted.  I can understand having my laptop checked to make sure it’s really a laptop.  I can tolerate having to carry an exception form and I can deal with having to present it on request to any security guard that asks to see it.  However, what possible purpose can it serve to require me to hold the backpack in my hand, as opposed to having it on my back?  Whether it’s in my hand or on my back, it’s still the same backpack.  Call me weak, but carrying a backpack in one hand that’s loaded down with books, notebooks, and a laptop gets heavy after a while, and switching it back and forth is a poor solution to just carrying it on my back.  It also keeps one of my hands full, which meant that I couldn’t properly hold my camera to take photos of anything.

Luckily, before I lost patience and just left, I found myself in the African art section looking at a wooden sculpture with three faces that I knew would be the perfect piece to write my paper on, which I’ll post later this week or next.  There were no benches to sit on, and after my treatment at the security desk I was worried that if I pulled out my laptop and actually turned it on and started using it, a flock of security guards would descend on me and demand I leave the museum, so I put my backpack down, took a dozen photos of the sculpture and then left the museum.

I wonder why they even bother to offer free wifi in the museum when they so obviously want to discourage anyone from bringing laptops?  I saw the available open network message pop up in my phone’s notification area when I was checking an email.  I can’t help but wonder if this nonsense of requiring people to carry bags that way was implemented to drive off students who were taking up space in the museum, writing papers, to make way for more tourists?

10 dollars (the recommended student donation for entry) pissed away for 45 minutes in the museum. Next time they’ll be lucky if I give them a dollar and a smile. Ya, I’ll be going back. How could you not? There’s a lot to see in there and the last time I went I was a little kid. I won’t be bringing my laptop with me though. That’s for sure.

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