Friday 19 March 2010

"Cultural" Tourism

Paolo Totaro starts the article which I discuss below in another post:
Our parents had taken us to Pompeii, the Roman town frozen in the moment it was buried in lava on August 24, 79AD. It was 34 years ago, on a bright winter's day, and we wandered the streets, peering in shops and tiny houses, and envisaged life before Vesuvius struck. Visitor access was almost unfettered: few guards, no security cameras. We were respectful, even as young teenagers, but we spied an American tourist who was not. I have never forgotten watching transfixed as he used his pocket knife to prise a handful of tiny, coloured tiles from the wall and trouser them, a souvenir of one of the world's most wondrous archaeological sites. In 1976 cultural mores had yet to shift into the sophisticated and protectively conservationist responses we apply to heritage sites now. The American man was an ass then, and things have changed now. Or have they?
The process of manufacture of portable antiquities from one that is not... I wonder where those purloined bits of antiquity are now? When the tourist dies, will his heirs even recognise what those tesserae were and where they were from? Will they find their way onto the market for those who want their own 'pieces of the past', or will the supply continually have to be augmented by more knife-wielding 'cultural tourists'? The same goes for all those chips knocked off Stonehenge by souvenir hunters of the past, have any of them survived properly labelled? Probably no more than any of the ancient coins collected indiscriminately by ACCG members across the sea.

Jane Akshar has a related post on the behaviour of tourists ("Responsible Tomb and Temple visiting") on her excellent News from Luxor blog. She was speaking recently to Moustafa Wazery, the SCA director of the West Bank who gives tourists some advice on how to help preserve the monuments for future visitors:
"Please, please, please do not touch the paintings, they are real and original. You don’t need to test. I actually saw a tourist scraping at the paint with their nails and saying ‘look it comes off’ I slapped them, yes it does come off and touching, scraping, rubbing will take it off. Don’t do it. Rucksacks, backpacks please carry them in hands in the tombs; a lot of damage is done by people’s backpacks scraping the walls. As churches as for Christians, mosques for Muslims and synagogues for Jews so were the temples for the Ancient Egyptians. Please dress respectfully and keep beachwear for the beach".


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