Visitors look at a Sanxingdui bronze head with gold foil mask at the Sanxingdui Museum in Guanghan, Sichuan Province. Photo: IC

Chinese netizens got involved in a heated debate over etiquette in museums after media reported some parents’ complaints about a ban on food and running at the Guangdong Museum in South China, saying the museum is “asking too much of children.”

An online photo showed a visitor complaining in the visitors’ book of the Guangdong Museum, asking “What is wrong with [children] eating, running and touching the dinosaur?” “Isn’t the customer always right?”

The museum on Thursday responded to the comments on its Sina Weibo account, saying that following rules and regulations in the museum shows  respect for others. It noted that parents should teach their children to practice proper museum etiquette.

The case sparked heated discussions among netiznes over museum etiquette. 

A survey on Sina Weibo with more than 11,000 respondents shows that about 65 percent of the respondents agree that every visitor has to obey museum rules while less than 130 respondents said that children should be treated as an exception. 

More than 3,300 respondents believe parents should be punished if their children break museum rules.

“The main purpose of museums is to preserve cultural and historical artifacts, and rules are made to protect the precious exhibits,” a staff member from the Dingling Tomb Museum in Beijing told the Global Times on Monday.

“Eating in the museum is forbidden as food and drinks might contaminate the artworks,” said the staff member.

The Global Times reporter found through social media accounts of some museums that it was not uncommon for visitors to touch the exhibits.

For example, the Wuhan Natural History Museum posted two pictures on Weibo in July showing that several children were destroying a butterfly specimen and tearing off its wings.

A picture shows that several children were destroying a butterfly specimen and tearing off its wings Photo: Sina Weibo account of the Wuhan Natural History Museum

But too many rules would kill the “pleasant experience for children,” some netizens said. “Museum etiquette is just too strict for my little child and I just want him to have fun while learning about the artifacts.”

Museums should strengthen publicity and education of museum etiquette as well as try to develop some interactive activities for children, some netizens suggested.