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The Fence of Carnegie Mellon University: The Most Painted Object in The World

Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University has a low concrete fence in the middle of its campus. For the last 70 years, students have been using the The Fence as the unofficial campus billboard painting it with witty or poignant messages or advertise upcoming events or recent accomplishments. Because of its highly visible location on campus, it is an ideal place to proclaim one's message to the student body. Over the years the paint layer grew thick until its weight became too much for the original wooden fence to bear and the fenced collapsed in 1993. At that time, the fence was considered “the world's most painted object” by the Guinness Book of World Records. It was replaced by a concrete fence which students continue to paint in an effort to break the record held by the original.


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In the early days of Carnegie Institute of Technology, there was valley that separated the Carnegie Tech buildings from the Margaret Morrison women's school. Over the valley spanned a bridge which the men of Carnegie Tech used as a strategic spot for meeting the women of Maggie Mo. However, when the valley was filled in to form the current-day grassy field, the bottleneck disappeared. In its place, the administration erected a fence. One night, the fraternity painted The Fence in the middle of the night advertising a party on campus. The party turned out to be a huge success, and thus started the tradition.

Any student can paint the fence provided they paint the entire length between midnight and sunrise using only a paintbrush. Rollers and spray paints are prohibited. Those who want to ensure their message is not painted over must post at least two people to "guard" the fence. Groups of students often camp out overnight and enjoy a barbecue so that they may keep control of the Fence for extended periods of time. The new fence has already accumulated paint over four inches thick.


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Layers of paint, now solidified, dripping from the fence. Photo credit


Cross section of a core sample showing the layers of paint accumulated from 1993 to 2007, displayed at Carnegie Mellon’s campus. Photo credit


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Sources: Wikipedia / CMU [via Atlas Obscura]

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