Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2), Upper Elementary (3–5), Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts
Time Required: Short Activity
20 minutes
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Activity Overview

It's only natural for visitors to want to touch works of art. Usually, they don't realize that damage results when many individuals touch objects, even if they do it very gently.

Learning Objectives

Students repeatedly touch a piece of paper, and then examine it for evidence of dirt and damage to learn why they should not touch works of art.


• Two ordinary pieces of white paper, about 4 x 5 inches
• Student Handout: "Please Don't Touch!"

Activity Steps

1. Take two pieces of ordinary white paper and pass one of them around the classroom. Ask each student to rub the piece of paper between his or her fingers for a moment before passing it along.

2. After everyone touches the paper, have students compare it to the piece that was not passed around.

3. Discuss how much dirt and oil are on the sheet that students touched, and how these residues can damage works of art. Tell students that thousands of people visit the Getty Museum everyday. Speculate on what the paper might look like if thousands of people had touched it. Use their comments as a springboard to discuss on the importance of preserving art for future generations. Why is it important to preserve works of art?

4. Ask students if they can think of other important rules to follow when visiting a museum. Be sure to address the following rules:
• No food, gum, or drinks are allowed.
• Pencils are allowed, but not pens.
• No cameras are allowed during the Guided Visit, but cameras without flash are OK after the tour. Flash damages the fragile materials in works of art much like the sun can discolor an item if it is left outside for too long.
• Stay with your group.
• Use indoor voices inside the galleries.
• Have fun!

Students in the Museum
Point, but don't touch.
Students in the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center