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The terrifying, seductive aspect of bad ideas is that they can pootle cheerfully along for years looking like quite good ideas. Then, some telling event occurs that reveals the misapprehension beneath which the progenitors of said idea had been labouring.

Twenty-five years ago, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Florida, was presented with a trove recovered from the wreck of the Santa Margarita, a Spanish ship that sank in 1622. Among this treasure was a 16.5 carat gold bar – today worth approximately $550,000. With a view to fostering an invigorating intimacy between the ingot and the museum’s visitors, the decision was made to exhibit it in a case which allowed the passing punter to reach in and grab it.

Though the flaw in this plan should have been obvious, it did, in fairness, work perfectly until the other week, when persons unknown at the time of writing trousered the artefact and absconded. Museum officials promise that if the gold is recovered, its case will be subject to security modifications – similar, presumably, to those made to the proverbial stable door subsequent to the decampment of the horse.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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