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It Belongs in a Museum

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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!
Young Indy: This should be in a museum!

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.

  • "Don't touch that MacGuffin!" Here, the phrase is usually uttered by the resident Adventurer Archaeologist but can be given by just about any Naïve 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.
  • "What a Piece of Junk!" This is a Sarcasm Mode version of Don't Touch That MacGuffin 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.
  • "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, characters may decide that the only safe alternative is to destroy the thing).

This trope is also 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.

Note that there are some hard feelings related to this trope. Imperial powers dedicated a lot of time and energy to looting their new colonies of every relic, artifact, piece of art, or item of history they could and carting them back to the motherland. This extended to brutally hacking statuary out of walls or off of plinths, leaving hands and feet behind (which are visible in the stolen pieces as off-color replacements and, of course, in the remnants left at home). For decades now, the now liberated former colonies have been demanding the return of their stolen history, with the museums of western Europe steadfastly refusing to return them, citing the White Man's Burden of properly caring for them. Naturally, much of the world doesn't particularly care for an Adventure Archaeologist braving the dangers of a third world country in order to "rescue" native art and transport to his homeland.

One modern variant growing out of this sentiment has the more enlightened Adventurer Archaeologist seeking the item not for their own museum, but with the intent of placing it with caretakers within the culture- the desire is to see the artifact respectfully preserved for those it belongs to. This sort will often be pitted against treasure hunters looting historical sites for glory and profit, or those who would seek to use a functional Ancient Artifact for personal gain.

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


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    "Don't touch that Mac Guffin!" 
Anime and Manga
  • Pokémon: The Original Series 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.

Comic Books

  • Clem Hetherington has this attitude regarding the Irowood artifacts in the first book. She wants to bring them to Professor Perton in the hopes he'll finally let her come along on an archaeological expedition, whereas Kilburn wants to sell them on the black market to get himself out of debt.
  • Inverted in Star Wars: Darth Vader, in a sequence homaging Indiana Jones, where Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra, a rogue archaeologist who is essentially Jones' Corrupted Character Copy, breaks into a vault where old superweapons are stored and dodges a variety of booby-traps before being caught just as she's about to get away. She insists that the MacGuffin is too useful to be left gathering dust in a museum — "It belongs in an armory!"


  • 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 Don't Touch That MacGuffin (again, when Indy says it) and What a Piece of Junk (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!


  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • 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. After a brief internal debate, Ekaterin realizes that he is right.
    • 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.
  • Lord of the Night Sky: Inverted, kindof. Ted has strong views about cultural appropriation and believes that native artifacts should be returned on request. That said, he also thinks that research are both good reasons for a museum IF you have permission.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: 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.
  • Nation: This is the rationale behind Daphne's father's well-meaning but very colonial attempt to take the Nation's secret treasures back to England. Daphne, however, has got to know and understand the Nation by living with them and is having none of that, pointing out that the objects are already in a museum.
  • How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: In the very first episode, Souma Kazuya lays out several plans in order to help the kingdom of Elfrieden to rise out of its' debt, one of these involves dipping into the royal treasury to sell off some of it to other nations in order to get some money. Princess Liscia was worried that he ended up selling off the entire treasury which contained historic and cultural pieces that are important to Elfrieden; only for Souma to reassure her that he had the treasury categorized into three groups: Group A: cultural heritage pieces, Group B: jewelry and decorations, and Group C: Magical Tools, with only Group B being sold off and invoking the trope for Group A.
    Souma Kazuya: When it comes to A's fundraising potential, they have more long-term value put on display in a museum.

Live-Action TV

  • In The Dick Van Dyke Show, 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 (with Grampa in the foreground as an infant) taken by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. Rob takes a moment to "separate my greed from my conscience", then decides:
    Rob Petrie:This is a piece of Americana, honey; it belongs in a museum. [brightens up] With a plaque! "On loan from the collection of Rob and Laura Petrie!"
  • 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 its original position.
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles:
    • The 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.
  • 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!"
  • Sunless Sea: The description for Outlandish Artefacts references the trope namer directly; the Artefacts themselves are mostly sold at high prices to the university's private collection.
    "This belongs in a museum! Assuming that colonial-imperial appropriation for the purpose of hegemonic taxonomisation is a suitable response to the problem of intercultural contact. Which it probably is, because museums are magnificent institutions."

Web Animation

Western Animation

  • Said Once an Episode in Jackie Chan Adventures (this is just as much one of cartoon Jackie's catchphrases as it is Indy's). 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 "It's Too Dangerous."
  • The Simpsons: Krusty once showed 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.
  • Towards the end of the Thomas & Friends special, "Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure", Marion digs up the lost pirate treasure that Sailor John has been looking for. Upon hearing about this from Thomas, Sailor John reveals that he wanted to keep the treasure for himself, and lied to his railboat, Skiff, about donating it to a museum. Thomas tells him that the treasure has been stolen by pirates many years ago, and doesn't belong to them or him. He also tells him that, to ensure it doesn't get stolen again, it's going to the museum Sir Topham Hatt is planning to put it in. Sailor John does steal the treasure the following night, leading Thomas to chase him down to get it back.
  • Billy Quizboy of The Venture Brothers says this often to his nemesis, Augustus St. Cloud. They are rival collectors of movie and TV memorabilia, and Billy points out artifacts that St. Cloud displays in his home that should be in a museum—or at least a Planet Hollywood. He does have a point, considering that St. Cloud has been known to use the original Henrietta Pussycat puppet to wash his genitals. But it could also just be Sour Grapes since Billy couldn't begin to afford a collection the size of St. Cloud's. Ironically, Billy has stolen articles from museums on a couple of occasions.

    "Really? You call that a car?" 
  • 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.


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 show up at McGee's apartment early in the morning. When he asks what they are doing there, Kate 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 are 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 & Friends, The Fat Controller's engines are often told this by other 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.
    • In "Toby Feels Left Out", the engines are told to get repainted for the opening of the Sodor Museum, except Toby. Toby fears this is because he's being sent to the museum as an exhibit and does everything in his power to prevent it. Naturally this isn't the case, and the Fat Controller was just planning to have Toby fetch the guests for the opening ceremony.
    • In "Heart of Gold", when Toby comes to Ulfstead Castle to fill in for Stephen while the latter is being repaired at the Steamworks, Devious Diesel asks Toby if he's come to be put on display. Some passengers also say that Toby looks like he belongs in a museum when Toby is about to begin the tour of Ulfstead Castle, but they stick up for him at the end of the episode when they learn that Toby stopped a pair of thieves that tried to steal King Godred's crown.
  • Storm Hawks has the Dark Ace mocking the Rex Guardians, whose customs and Skimmers are at least several decades out of datenote , with this as he's swatting them out of the sky.
    "Where'd you find your rides? A museum?"
  • No less than Sherlock Holmes himself says this of a piece of tech which, for its day, was very impressive, but by the standards of this era is quaintly obsolete.

Real Life

  • In the interwar period the general opinion about the state of the Japanese armor varied between the So Last Season and this. At the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, most of the Japanese armored corps consisted of the late-Twenties and early-Thirties designs, and while they were more or less adequate against the Chinese, who didn't have even that, the Villain Forgot to Level Grind, and when Japan entered World War II in earnest, they did close to zero progress — the IJA, which was responsible for tank development, was constantly sidelined and denied resources in favor of the IJN, which actually bore the brunt of the war. This was understandable, but by the end of the war, Japanese tanks were everyone's laughingstock and hardly ever had any military impact. Even the humble M4 Sherman was completely superior against anything the Japanese could field. The Americans had to use fragmentation rounds against the Japanese tanks: anti-tank rounds simply penetrated the Japanese armour, broke everything on their trajectory and came out from the other side, leaving no other damage but the entry and exit holes (and anything in-between).
    • The Brits were actually hit by the same bug, and their tanks for most of the interwar period were sometimes even more archaic — just remember the straight-outta-Somme monstrosity that was the TOG II, or marginally more modern, but still obsolete while still on the drawing board Churchill. Fortunately for them, they were much, much quicker to get their shit together, and by the end of the war, they had some of the best Allied tanks, like the astonishingly deadly Sherman Firefly. Though even their more dated designs like the Matilda still were much superior to anything the Japanese could field. The Matilda tank had two assets for the jungle warfare: extremely thick armour which no Japanese gun could penetrate and two Nuffield diesel engines, which made it both extremely durable and reliable. It had gained the nickname "Queen of the Desert" in 1941; in 1944 it became "Queen of the Jungle". The Australians even equipped it with Hedgehog depth charge launcher which proved a success against the Japanese bunkers.

    "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.
  • On an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Worf, Dax and Dax's old Klingon buddy Kor find the fabled Sword of Kahless, believing it can unite the empire. After arguing among each other how it should be treated and nearly killing one another at one point, they ultimately decide it would tear the empire apart rather than unite it, so the beam it into space in the middle of nowhere.
  • Warehouse 13: This is the entire reason why the Warehouse even exists. The artifacts stored in there are too dangerous to leave in the outside world, add many are capstone of gruesomely killing anything that comes in contact.

Western Animation

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).
  • The tagline of the Museum of Military History in Vienna reads, “Krieg gehört ins Museum!”note 

"In its country of origin right?..."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): That Belongs In A Museum


The Trope Namer

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 Don't Touch That MacGuffin (again, when Indy says it) and What a Piece of Junk (Panama Hat's retort).

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / ItBelongsInAMuseum

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