A Place That Puts Some Fun Into Life
The Wall Street Journal ran an article over the weekend about Saint Louis’ beloved City Museum, its potential hazards, and the lawsuits they sometimes generate. The museum is privately owned — few government agencies would ever make something as quirky and fun as the City Museum — by Bob Cassilly, who emerges from the article as a heroic if offbeat businessman fighting to keep his dream alive against tiresome safety scolds:
“We like to be the devil’s advocate for society,” says Bob Cassilly, the museum’s 60-year-old founder, a self-described “idiot savant” with wild gray hair. “When you have millions of people do something, something’s going to happen no matter what you do.”
The City Museum, housed in 10-story brick building, shows none of the restraint or quiet typical of museums. A cross between a playground and a theme park, it recycles St. Louis’ industrial past into such attractions as slides made from assembly-line rollers. Just about everything can be touched or climbed, including dozens of Mr. Cassilly’s sculptures, among them a walk-through whale on the first floor.
Despite the whiff of danger, or perhaps because of it, the City Museum is one of St. Louis’s most popular attractions. Its 700,000 annual attendance is roughly twice the population of St. Louis and dwarfs the turnout at refined destinations such as the St. Louis Art Museum.
The injuries and lawsuits put the City Museum at the center of an enduring argument over the line between liability and personal responsibility. Some of the injured and their lawyers say the museum is deceptively dangerous and doesn’t do enough to publicize its risks through signs or other warnings.
Mr. Cassilly counters that it is as safe as it can be without being a bore. “They [lawyers] are taking the fun out of life.”
How very true. There are numerous warnings throughout the museum to avoid certain activities and that everything done there is at your own risk, but apparently that’s not enough for people who think life should be risk free. The City Museum is essentially a giant playground for children and adults alike, and like all playgrounds, the players occasionally get injured. That’s unfortunate, but it’s no reason to sue playgrounds out of existence.