Tag, You’re It: 17 Museum Admissions Buttons From Around the World

Part ticket, part souvenir, the admission button has become a design object and a de rigueur part of the museum experience.

Infographic: Tag, You're it! Popup-Icon

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York started handing out those now-iconic metal tags with its "da Vinci M" logo to visitors in 1971. Today, admission-control litho tabs, as they're officially known, are standard in museums around the world, and a handful of companies, including Adco Litho Line of Broadview, Illinois, and New York's Kraus & Sons (which makes the Met's tabs), stamp out millions of the rust-resistant tinplate-steel pieces each year. If you buy in bulk, they cost about 9 cents each.

Lately, many museums have been switching to plastic tags, which cost much less than their metal forebears and are more user-friendly. Ketchum Manufacturing of Brockville, Ontario, stopped producing metal tags after receiving numerous complaints. "The more we investigated it, we found that women didn't want to put that metal onto a blouse, and children were cutting themselves on the sharp edges," says owner Claude Lalonde. "In fact, we were nearly sued when a child cut his finger." Ketchum now produces 10 million plastic tabs each year.

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  • Irene Palmer

    This seems to imply that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was the first to hand out metal tags, but I seem to recall receiving such buttons when I lived in NYC as a child and visited the American Museum of Natural History, and I moved away in 1968. The tags were orange with a line drawing of a stegosaurus on them.