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It Belongs in a Museum
Fedora: You got heart, kid, but that belongs to me.
Young Indy: It belongs to Coronado.
Fedora: Coronado's dead, and so are all his grandchildren!

Stock Phrase expressing just how old and/or valuable a given MacGuffin, Artifact of Doom, or hey, maybe someone's Grampa is. Used in a few different types of plot scenarios.

Type 1: "Don't touch that MacGuffin." Here, the phrase is usually uttered by the resident Adventurer Archaeologist, but can be given by just about any Naďve Newcomer or The Everyman who happens to stumble on something very old or valuable while exploring The Ruins. Indiana Jones was most likely either the Trope Maker or the Trope Codifier for this particular type. There are two common variations of this type.

In the first, the line serves to establish the character who utters it as a good and trustworthy person, in contrast to the person he's saying this to, who will be (or, more likely, is) devoured by the Green-Eyed Monster and will, in a relatively short time span, Kick the Dog. It's likely that their response to this phrase will, in itself, be a Kick the Dog.

The second variation is less straightforward regarding good guys and bad guys. In this scenario, someone finds something old and/or valuable, sometimes in a Personal Effects Reveal, sometimes in some other scenario, but always already in someone's possession and exclaims this. Another person then goes through an explanation as to why it does not, in fact, belong there. Both characters here are quite capable of being good, and the object will most likely not go to a museum in the end, in contrast to the first one, where the object will, but after a major argument and/or Fight Scene.

Type 2: "Really? You call that a car?" This is a Sarcasm Mode version of Type 1 that gains a completely different meaning. In this case, a person is referring disparagingly to something because of its age or it doesn't work properly. The person then says that the thing is "so old/broken/weird it belongs in a museum." Which doesn't mean it won't get used in a pinch.

Type 3: "It's too dangerous for us!" This usually occurs in An Aesop about the Green-Eyed Monster. A group finds a treasure/MacGuffin and decides to split it. But soon, everyone's turning on each other in order to get more than their own share or in order to get the artifact all to himself. Eventually a truce is reached when the group realizes that what they found is more trouble than it's worth, and the item gets sent to a museum instead. Although, it's a very common story that a MacGuffin, under the care of a museum, will be the target of theft or cause trouble in some way, so it takes a certain amount of Genre Blindness to believe that this really will solve the problem (in such cases, more Genre Savvy characters may decide that the only safe alternative is to destroy the thing).

This trope is also a Truth in Television - under UK law, museums get first refusal of any treasure found in British soil, and under Canadian law, mammoth-tusk ivory belongs to Britain.

Compare to Break Out the Museum Piece, when it may already be in a museum, but is needed elsewhere.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    "Don't touch that Mac Guffin!" 

Anime and Manga
  • Pokémon episode "Control Freak!". After Team Rocket invades an underground temple and grabs a golden mask and staff, an archeologist named Tiara says that the mask and staff are priceless pieces of ancient history and belong in a museum.

Film
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the Trope Namer, where the line gets used twice in the introduction, first as noted in the Page Quote (when Indy is a teenaged Scout) and later when Indy is a full-fledged adventurer. Both refer to the same object, the Cross of Coronado. Note that this example falls under both Type 1 (again, when Indy says it) and Type 2 (Panama Hat's retort).
    Panama Hat: Dr. Jones, this is the second time I've had to reclaim my property from you.
    Indiana Jones: That belongs in a museum!
    Panama Hat: So do you!

Literature
  • A Civil Campaign: Miles offers his grandmother's old saddle to Ekaterin. His grandmother being the daughter of the Emperor, Princess Vorbarra and Countess Vorkosigan. When Ekaterin exclaims this line, Miles replies that it was made to be used, and belongs under a fine lady, not glass.
    • The one time that Miles made the mistake of showing his attic and its wide selection of century-plus old junk to Commodore Duv Galeni of ImpSec Komarran Affairs, the man promptly reverted to Doctor Professor Duv Galeni of the University of Vorbarr Sultana Department of History and insisted that it all belonged in a museum.
    • There is a similar moment with a valuable old violin in Falling Free. Madame Minchenko used to keep it in a climate controlled vault, but then she realized that musical instruments are meant to be played.
  • Piper MacLean has a moment like this when she is told the dagger she is holding belonged to Helen of Troy. Annabeth explains that Half-Bloods live surrounded by ancient stuff and it's meant for them to use.
  • Adventure Hunters: This is how Regina justifies her treasure hunting; 'we can better learn about and appreciate a culture if its relics are in a museum instead of collecting dust in a tomb'. Her teammates are Only in It for the Money and just as heroic as she is. The difference is that they care more about making a living than studying history.

Live-Action TV
  • Came up in The Dick Van Dyke Show of all places. Rob inherited an old-fashioned roll top desk from his Identical Grandfather, and searched it for a treasure which the grandfather had implied was hidden in it. The treasure turned out to be a picture of Abraham Lincoln taken by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. At first they were going to sell it, then weren't sure, and ended up giving it on permanent loan to a museum.
  • Frequently used by Sydney Fox in Relic Hunter. One episode had her decide that some cursed artifact was too dangerous to put in a museum, and just wanting it left in it's original position.
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, episode "British East Africa, September 1909"
    Teddy Roosevelt: Beasts such as these belong in a museum, for everyone to share.
    • Indy also repeats his iconic line in the second part of the pilot, Young Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Jackal, while fighting with villain Demetrios for an ancient piece of art that he (presumably) intended to sell in the black market.
  • In the tamales episode of Good Eats, the Nutritional Anthropologist Deborah Duchon and Alton are arguing over the eventual fate of a Mayan recipe wall. Interestingly, Alton is telling her to let the wall stay where it is (instead of destroying part of the temple) while Deb says that It Belongs in a Museum. Her museum, specifically. Which is when the entire thing (inevitably, perhaps) collapses into a parody of Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with Hovitos and "if only they knew you as I know you"/"you could tell them, if only you spoke Hovitos."
  • Played with in a sketch from The Whitest Kids U Know, with Peter Frampton's guitar at an auction (after his apparent death). Indiana Jones is there and says his line, but is just told to sit down. He meekly does.

Video Games
  • A comic example occurs in Harvest Moon Animal Parade during a cutscene in which Calvin, the resident Indiana Jones Expy, angrily declares this line to Luke and Owen, who are trying to smash down a millennium-old wall in order to get to more ore.
  • Played for laughs in The Curse of Monkey Island:
    Guybrush Threepwood: That diamond belongs in a museum!
    King André: So do Postimpressionist paintings, Mister Threepwood. So do Postimpressionist paintings.
    Guybrush Threepwood: What the heck is THAT supposed to mean?
    King André: One day... you will understand.
    • Also, in The Secret of Monkey Island you can claim that the Idol of Many Hands "belongs in a museum" when you are caught trying to steal it. Note that in neither case Guybrush actually means it, and it's just one of the optional lines of dialog to try to get the item for himself.
  • In Delve Deeper, the King will comment on the treasures you turn in. Sometimes he'll declare "It belongs in a museum. Good thing I have one."
  • The Archaeology skill tree of Dungeons of Dredmor, being a running parody of Indiana Jones (complete with his iconic fedora as a bonus item), has a skill named after this quote (it grants the player the ability to cash in artifacts in exchange for experience points).
  • The Sith Warrior story in Star Wars: The Old Republic has a quest where you help Vette recover a "priceless piece of Twi'lek history", the Star of Kala'unn. She wants to make sure it ends up in a museum.
  • In the WarCraft universe, there is a character named Harrison Jones, a clear Shout-Out to Indiana Jones. Naturally, he references Indiana Jones frequently, but his character card in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has him destroy the opponents weapon, draw cards from it, while he says "That belongs in a museum!"

Web Animation

Western Animation
  • Said Once an Episode in Jackie Chan Adventures. Except for the time when Jackie broke into the museum to steal the MacGuffin back...
    • There is also the cat statue that turns anyone who touches it into a cat. Jackie decides that destroying it is the best thing, this fits more with Type 3.
  • The Simpsons: Krusty once shown an old chair and, after telling its history, he said it should be in a museum. In a subversion of the trope, Krusty explains it isn't because museums don't want it.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Slaver Weapon".
    Sulu: It would have looked nice in some museum.
    Spock: It never would have reached a museum, Lieutenant. There was too much power in that one setting. If not the Kzinti, the Klingons or some other species would have tried to possess it.

    "Really? You call that a car?" 

Film
  • In The Legend of Zorro movie, two Pinkerton agents capture Zorro and claim that the days of vigilantes are over.
    Pinkerton agent: (showing Zorro his mask) This belongs in a museum. So do you.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • On Doctor Who, this is the attitude other Time Lords tend to have towards the Doctor's TARDIS.

  • In a season 2 episode of NCIS, Tony and Kate shows up at McGee's apartment early in the morning. When he asks what they are doing there, Kate's says they wanted to observe him in his natural environment, and Tony starts a National Geographic routine about "watch as the McGee moves slowly to the watering hole..." Then Tony walks into the study, where there is an old fashioned desk and a typewriter. Immediately he asks if that's the History channel room.
  • Seinfeld: on seeing the old equipment his dad works out with, Jerry comments, "Is this a gym or a fitness museum?"

Video Games
  • Ezreal uses the phrase as a taunt. You belong in a museum!

Western Animation
  • In Thomas the Tank Engine The Fat Controller's engines are often told this by characters due to their age.
    • In "Edward's Exploit" Gordon says that Edward should retire and "be preserved."
    • In "Horrid Lorry" one of the titular lorries tells Toby he belongs in a museum instead of working at a quarry.

    "It's too dangerous for us!" 

Live-Action TV
  • On It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Mac and Charlie find a Nazi uniform with medals that belonged to Dennis & Dee's grandfather. They decide they have to get rid of it, but figure a museum will pay good money for it, so yay! The guy running the museum is less than enthusiastic.
  • Occasionally on Pawn Stars, the expert called in to look at a customer's item will tell them that it has more value for museums and archives than as a commercial commodity. One customer, for instance, had original battle plans for the Normandy invasion, and Rick was eager to buy them until the expert who authenticated them pointed out that they were printed with cheap ink that would fade quickly when exposed to light, making them a risky investment for the shop.

Real Life
  • There's an urban legend about the Hope Diamond that brought misfortune on whoever owned it. This stopped when it was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. (Although the curator once took it in his pocket to an exhibition in another country and had an extremely bad trip).

Western Animation


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alternative title(s): That Belongs In A Museum
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