Recently, a museum in Scotland reported that an 800-year-old sandstone coffin on exhibit was broken.
This is not entirely surprising, given that it is 800 years old and sandstone is not a durable material.
It was the way in which it was broken — by tourists who thought it would be neat to place their kid inside for a snapshot.
From where does this come? Who touches things in a museum?
I’m just grateful they weren’t American, because, let’s be honest: You know how we roll.
This summer, a congressman was flayed for making a video inside a gas chamber at Auschwitz. While there’s no reason to doubt Rep. Clay Higgins’ explanation that he did it to illustrate the horrors of Nazism, it violated the visitation policy, which is clearly posted.
In national parks, people engrave and spray-paint stones and cliffs, all in a bid for immortality.
Travel sites and magazines need only to mention an “untouched” place to transform it into something akin to Black Friday.
The problem is international. In May, thousands of tourists descended upon a nature preserve for azalea trees in Sichuan, China, breaking off blooming branches and uprooting entire trees to take home.
All summer in Italy, police repeatedly had to shoo away tourists who were eating, loitering and littering on the steps of cathedrals.
Four British soldiers recently were arrested for allegedly engaging in pro-Nazi activity that includes taking photos of themselves offering “Heil Hitler” salutes at a former concentration camp.
In some parts of Asia, Western tourists arrive without adequate funds, then become beggars to acquire enough funds for their return.
It doesn’t count
Nowhere is immune. For years the Vatican has had to ride herd on tourists who are shocked — shocked — at not being allowed to wear Daisy Dukes inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
During World War II, wherever American G.I.s fought, the phrase “Kilroy was here” later was found scribbled all over Europe and the Pacific, offering a dose of levity during an otherwise grim situation.
The phrase has been attributed to an actual person, James J. Kilroy, a wartime shipyard inspector in Quincy, Massachusetts, who scribbled it inside of hulls to confirm they had been inspected.
Most of people wreaking havoc in museums and historical sites today have never heard of Kilroy. They aren’t toppling headstones, carving their initials and taking selfies at Buchenwald as a gesture of resilience and encouragement.
In too many cases, tourism has stopped becoming about the wonder and splendor of some of the sites we’re touring, and rather about us and our being there, as though the Great Pyramids should be grateful we even bothered to leave litter.
There appears to be pathology that if others don’t know we’ve been there, then our having been there doesn’t count.
— Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.