Created By: timotaka on April 8, 2012 Last Edited By: timotaka on January 20, 2013

Fully Functional Display Model

If it's on display, it's in perfect working condition

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Plenty of times in fiction there's an odd occurrence when an item that's on display in a museum or privately appears to be completely functional, so that a character can simply grab (or perhaps enter when it is a vehicle) and start using it immediately. Of course, this is not how it works in real life. If you see a WW2-era nuclear bomb in a museum, you can bet it's not topped up with weapons-grade uranium and working detonation charge. Firearms on display might have their barrels completely blocked by metal, and so on. There are even instances where the actual age of a display item seems irrelevant to the working condition of the chemical, mechanical and electronic parts of the item on display.

A specific example of this in fiction: Demolition Man: Simon Phoenix goes to steal firearms from a museum, the only place where they exist in the utopian society. He grabs weapons from display cases, and they all appear to be immediately functional and with plentiful supplies of ammo nearby.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • April 8, 2012
    WackyMeetsPractical
    • The recent film version of Get Smart: There is a museum with artifacts from the old CONTROL which sits on top and conceals the current CONTROL headquarters. When Max needs to get somewhere, he steals a car from the museum and drives it straight out along with some other gadgets.
  • April 8, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    • In Batman Beyond the Batcave still has one of Mr. Freeze's cold gun's on display. Amazingly after forty years the thing still works, as Terry has to use it against the shapeshifting villain Inque.
  • April 8, 2012
    Goldfritha
    • In one Legion Of Superheroes story, a "Dial H For Hero" ring was stolen, and broken in the process of rescuing it. The Legionnaire who brought it back feign apolegeticness, though really glad that it was not a danger. Alas, the curator said they would have to bring out one of their other ones to display instead.
  • April 8, 2012
    zarpaulus
    • In one episode of Futurama they find a working heat-seeking missile in a museum.

    • Averted in The Time Machine, the dynamite sticks the protagonist finds are replicas and most everything else has decayed into uselessness over the past 800,000 years.

    • The Mote In Gods Eye, Motie museums are designed to preserve technology for future civilizations following their cyclical collapses.
  • April 8, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • subverted in The Remake of Fright Night 2011. The weapons were in cases and intentionally in usable condition because their owner was aware of vampires and wanted to be prepared if they ever attacked.
  • April 8, 2012
    Generality
    Discussed in Shaun Of The Dead, in which the characters debate whether the Winchester rifle that gives their local pub its name, and which hangs over the bar, is disabled or still functional (a subtle lampshading of Chekhovs Gun). Ultimately played straight when they finally use it.
  • April 8, 2012
    timotaka
    Perhaps a better name would be Fully Functional Display Model. This one came to mind:

    • The car on display as the main prize of some competition in the mall in Grand Theft Auto Vice City can be entered and driven around.

    Other straight "museum piece" instances I also remembered:

    • In the Star Man Blackest Night tie-in David Knight is resurrected by a Black Lantern ring. The first thing he does is to break in to the Starman museum and grab his old cosmic rod. Of course, it is in fully working condition.
    • In The Darkness II an unarmed Jackie stumbles into his father's old study which has a Winchester M1887 shotgun displayed on the wall. Jackie grabs this to shoot his way out. Since his father was deeply involved with the mafia and Darkness, keeping the shotgun in working condition could be counted as him being Genre Savvy, but he has been dead for years.
  • April 8, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of The Simpsons Bart steals a car purported to be Adolf Hitler's from a display at a travelling carnival.
  • April 8, 2012
    SingingRain
    • Parodied in The Simpsons "Lisa the Skeptic" when Lisa walks by a display whale and comments on how lifelike it is. Then, when she's gone, museum workers start washing the animal and feeding it.
    • Night At The Museum embodies this trope.
  • April 9, 2012
    Arivne
    Compare Break Out The Museum Piece, which is an old piece of equipment being used when more modern devices are not available. Some of the examples on that page are also this trope (e.g. the Booster Gold example under Comic Books).

    Justified in the case of a Superhero Trophy Shelf, where the exhibits are actual items used by super villains.

    Literature
  • April 9, 2012
    Edokage
  • April 9, 2012
    aurora369
    Real Life: In Russia and some other post-Soviet countries, there are a lot of WWII monuments that are real vehicles (tanks, self-propelled artillery, planes etc) put on pedestals. Most of them are deactivated, but there were several cases when the monuments were in working order and someone managed to refuel them and get them running (only the cannons were deactivated).
  • April 9, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    An episode of The Untouchables, where crooks break into a museum to steal a wine-bottle corking machine.

  • April 9, 2012
    DmM
    In Mortal Engines the senior faculty of the London Guild of Historians defend themselves against attack by the Guild of Engineers (who are using Stalkers - dead soldiers reactivated as Terminator-style cyborgs - as crack troops) by using 'Ancient' weapons (swords, crossbows, muskets and guns from our era, which is the unimaginable past to them) from the guild museum. They don't win per se. The Engineers only attacked because they had learned that Katherine Valentine (daughter of Chief Historian, famed archaeologist and right-hand man of Mayor [and Chief Engineer] Crome) was working with a regenade Engineer to build a bomb intended to destroy an ancient nuclear super-gun that her father had excavated and the Engineers had fixed. The Engineers claimed they would use it to defend London, but Katherine learned that they planned to do this by destroying everywhere else so she decided to committ treason and blow up the gun. She failed to detonate her bomb, but after the gun's computer had been ordered to fire, she slumped across the keyboard and mangled the co-ordinates. As a result, it didn't fire, but the build-up of power made it explode. The initial wave of electromagnetic energy took out the Stalkers, and the nuclear blast killed the attacking Engineers and most of the Historians (not to mention the rest of the city...). However, some of the defenders survived and they had held off high-tech troops for an hour or so using museum pieces.
  • April 9, 2012
    timotaka
    I did notice the Break Out The Museum Piece trope myself. I can think of three main differences to what I have in mind here:

    1) With a case of Break Out The Museum Piece it can be acknowledged that the piece in question requires repairs to get it into running condition. 2) The items with this trope are not necessarily all that old. 3) This trope is more clearly in contrast with the real world. Especially when it comes to firearms, which in many countries are by law required to be unloaded when on display, and even while in storage or transport.

    I also think that things like bladed weapons or magical items should be left out of this trope. It's reasonable to expect those to retain their functionality for centuries or more. I'd say that to qualify for this trope an item should contain at least one of the following: moving parts, chemicals or electronics. What are your thoughts on this?
  • April 9, 2012
    Larek
    Stargate Did this, in a alternate time line, in the future the planet was tricked into self extinction. The Old team reforms and decides to tell themselves in the past to Not got that route. The need equipment, specifically the gate key to safely pass when returning to now(of the normal time line)
  • April 9, 2012
    Earnest
    • In Demolition Man, the "Hall of Violence" wing of a museum has fully functional weapons and ammo, Ray Gun included.

    • Invoked on Star Trek Voyager episode "Living Witness". A museum curator scares a kid off of a Photon Torpedo by pretending it's still armed.
  • April 10, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In yet another Simpsons Sideshow Bob steals and flies the Wright Brothers' first functional plane from a travelling museum type display. He flies it better than they did too, since their first flight was only 120 feet.
  • April 10, 2012
    dokatron
    And another Simpsons example, Lisa and Homer break into a museum and accidentally activate an ancient Egyptian music box. It opens automatically and plays perfectly, despite not having been turned on for possibly hundreds or thousands of years.
  • April 11, 2012
    timotaka
    That reminded me...

    • Near the end of the Simpsons episode "Beyond Blunderdome" Homer and Mel Gibson are running away from movie producers, and end up in a museum displaying various famous movie cars. Of course, they drive away in the one from The Road Warrior.
  • April 11, 2012
    elwoz
    A common case that should get mentioned in the description: Cars on long-term display in museums in Real Life have empty fuel tanks.

    ... however, cars on short-term display somewhere (like the showpiece of this year's model in the middle of a shopping mall) usually do have gas in the tank, because the easiest way to get them to where they're being displayed, and back again later, is to drive them.
  • April 11, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Another Stargate SG 1 example: the team jumps into a stargate which is in a museum.
  • April 11, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ At least twice that I can recall. Not to mention that earth's gates were both millennia-old artifacts found buried in the Egyptian desert and Antarctic ice, though neither of them were ever put in a museum.
  • April 11, 2012
    Generality
    ^ But the Gates were specifically built to last under all sorts of harsh conditions, so I don't know that they count.

    I think this and Break Out The Museum Piece are completely different tropes, but it looks like a lot of examples that belong here have been dumped onto that page.
  • April 11, 2012
    pcw2727
    ^^^^ that same instance also features a working naquada bomb on display in the same museum.

  • April 11, 2012
    foxley
    In Teaching Mrs Tingle, one of the students had constructed a fully functioning crossbow as a school history project. And it was kept loaded.
  • April 11, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^^ That was the second time, the first was the beginning of that episode where they set off a religious nuclear war.
  • April 14, 2012
    timotaka
    @elwoz: Thanks for that information. I have been wondering about it, and it's good to hear from someone who knows.

    I agree that alien technology falls outside of this at least most times. It's clearest when we are talking about human-built devices. That reminds me, I think that Durable Deathtrap is somewhat connected to this trope.
  • April 18, 2012
    timotaka
    Bump and another example I remembered from films:

    • At the end of Hudson Hawk the heroes escape using Leonardo da Vinci's hang glider-like flying machine.
  • April 18, 2012
    Larek
    Then to clarify the First Stargate SG 1 example is human built.
  • April 18, 2012
    HawkofBattle
    • Near the end of Beverly Hills Cop three, Axel Foly attempts to procure a weapon from his friendly neighbourhood arms dealer. The only one remaining is the display model BFG
  • April 18, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    Subverted in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Elizabeth attempts to defend herself with one of the swords displayed above the mantle, but she finds it is permanently attached to its decorative shield.
  • April 18, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Tom Swift Jr. has many miniature models of his inventions on display, most of which are fully functional. (Specific examples escape me ATM.)
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    I think this is done if someone goes to the trouble of rolling up the examples. I'm not sure I can be bothered.
  • January 18, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • In one episode of American Dad, Roger tries to help out Steve by making him into a local costumed superhero, going around recording his actions. He ends up finding another man in a back alley using the same camera model, and asked where he got it and how much he paid for his. When Roger found out that there was a store with the same camera for a much cheaper price, he goes back to the electronics store where he got his and demands that they honor their policy about matching competitor's prices. The salesman asks if he has his receipt, to which Roger furiously exclaims no because he stole the floor model.
  • January 18, 2013
    dvorak
    • In Demolition Man, the villain steals a particle beam rifle from a museum, and rampages through future LA with it.
  • January 19, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Real Life: in early 2013 New York City discovered that a pre-Revolutionary War cannon which has been on display in Central Park for over 100 years was still loaded with a cannball and gunpowder.
  • January 19, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    Dunno if it fits here or not, but there is a sample D20 Modern adventure ('No Man's Land') which has the Player Characters battling WWI zombies reanimated by a crazy necromancer. The zombies come out of a fully transplanted battlefield trench, and both they and the P Cs do battle with fully functional WWI-era weapons (and even a tank!) kept on display (the adventure proper even has a side note noting that in real life museums would have their weapons deactivated-but what the hell, Rule of Cool applies).
  • January 19, 2013
    MaxWest
    Final Fantasy VII had Cloud and company escaping from the Shinra building with motor vehicles on display in the lower-level showrooms.

    I am inclined to agree that this trope could be a subtrope of Break Out the Museum Piece or at the very least, is related to it.
  • January 20, 2013
    MaxWest
    The Terminator does this when going shopping at a sporting goods store for firearms. He actually loads up shotgun shells into a shotgun he acquires...and uses it right away on the surprised shopkeeper.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=s0jypj6bet4yvixo0onyb6xx