Trouble Abroad: These Tourists Were Indicted for Destroying Historical Artifacts and Sites

By: Olawale Ogunjimi | Last updated: Nov 09, 2023

Not every tourist visiting a historical site understands its sanctity. In fact, there are museum visitors who have no appreciation for the art pieces on display.

Consequently, expensive art pieces have been destroyed due to sheer carelessness and, in some cases, a casual disregard for authority. Let’s look at some specific individuals that damaged such items and what became of them afterward. 

A Flower Painting Worth $1.5 Million

A 12-year-old boy went to see an art exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan. On display were a collection of art pieces that had either been painted or influenced by Leonardo da Vinci. 

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

After moving around the gallery for a while, a particular painting caught his attention from afar—Paolo Porpora’s masterpiece called “Flowers.” Just a few feet away from the painting, the young boy stumbled and fell, punching a hole in the canvas of the expensive piece. Luckily, the art piece was insured.

A Museum Visitor Destroys a 19th-Century Painting

The next piece of art on our radar is “Basin with a Single Sailboat” by Claude Monet. This is a painting from the 19th century and is on display at the National Gallery of Ireland.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, Andrew Shannon was admitted like any average visitor on a random morning in late June. But the narrative changed suddenly when something out of the normal happened. Shannon punched the Monet painting, leaving a deep gash in the canvas. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment for the vandalism.  

Taking a Souvenir from a Historic Site

The Easter Island of Polynesia made it to the list of World Heritage Sites mainly because of the Moai monolithic statues that dot the island’s landscape. These statues date as far back as the 13th century. 

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 2008, a Finnish tourist visiting the island decided to go home with a souvenir. He chipped off the ear of one of the human-like Moai statues. Consequently, the tourist was slammed with a $17,000 fine and banished from the island for three years. 

An Attempt to Get the Perfect Picture Breaks an Infinity Mirror

In 2017, a famous artist, Yayoi Kusama, started what would eventually become a touring exhibition of her infinity mirror rooms. However, the first port of call was Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, and the show included six infinity mirror rooms. 

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the rooms got the most traffic, so much so that a mirror and pumpkin piece used for the display got damaged by a visitor trying to get a perfect picture. A similar pumpkin piece was auctioned for $800,000 in 2015.

Defacement of a Concentration Camp

The Auschwitz concentration camp was used as an extermination and work camp during the World War II occupation by the Nazis. A contemporary of Freud, Viktor Frankl, was one of the survivors of this camp. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The site was converted into a museum in 1946. However, some visitors to the facility have been reported to deface some of the bunks that prisoners once used. 

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Leaving Graffiti On An Ancient Stadium

Entertainment played a significant role in the economy of ancient Rome. The Colosseum is the most popular and intact of all the ancient entertainment arenas still surviving in Rome. 

Source: Pexels

However, the large number of tourists welcomed annually at the Colosseum has drawbacks. For example, some visitors have been found leaving graffiti and their initials on the ruin site. In 2015, two Americans were each fined $20,000 for a similar offense. 

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Forcing A Clock to Tell the Time

Clocks are meant to tell time. So, the man in this story can not be entirely faulted for his error. 

Source: Reddit

A sculptural clock by James Borden was put on display at the American National Clock and Watch Museum. Of course, the timepiece had a “Do Not Touch” sign next to it, but a 2016 visitor decided to make an effort to make it tell the right time. Unfortunately, the clock fell and broke, but the entire affair was caught on security footage. 

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A Family Destroys an 800-Year-Old Coffin

The Prittlewell Priory Museum was a monastery started in the 12th century but was later turned over to local authorities, who decided to convert it to its present use. 

Source: Picryl

In 2017, a family visiting the museum destroyed one of its historical pieces—an 800-year-old coffin. The family had decided to place their young child on the sandstone coffin when the stand went out of place, and a considerable portion of the artifact broke. 

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A Tear in a $100 Million Painting

Anyone who knows anything about art must have heard the name Picasso. His paintings have gained so much acclaim that even some of his unfinished pieces still rake in millions at auctions. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of Picasso’s pieces, “The Actor,” is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Unfortunately, in 2010, a woman attending an art class at the museum stumbled and fell into the 100 million-dollar painting. Luckily, the piece was successfully repaired.

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Some Men Got Into Trouble For Trying to ‘Kill’ Goblins

This unique land formation is found in the state of Utah, and the naturally formed rock structures are called Goblins by locals. The 170 million-year-old formation is a protected area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

Source: Twitter

In 2014, two men filmed themselves pushing over one of the Goblins and posted the video on social media. They were charged to court, sentenced to a year of probation, and required to pay some fines. 

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A Bridge Overwhelmed by Love

The Pont des Art is a pedestrian bridge in Paris, France, that crosses the Seine River. The bridge was completed in 1984 and became a nest for lovers at the turn of the millennium. Couples would scribe their first names on a lock, attach it to the bridge railings, and throw the keys into the Seine as a gesture of love. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 2014, a parapet of the bridge collapsed under the weight of the locks attached to it. Local authorities have started a campaign to discourage tourists from continuing with this tradition. 

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A Museum Visitor Trips Over Vases Worth $120k

The Fitzwilliam Museum has some beautiful Chinese vases on display in its corridors. A man visiting the museum in Cambridge had no particular liking for the art pieces from the Qing Dynasty but has come to be identified with them.

Source: Twitter

During the visit, the guest tripped on an untied shoelace, stumbled down a flight of stairs, and toppled over a series of vases arranged closely together. The broken vases were estimated to have been worth $120,000.

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American Tourist Breaks The Virgin Mary’s Finger

The Museum of the Works of the Cathedral in Florence, Italy contains art pieces initially designed for the Duomo Cathedral of Florence. One of the pieces on display is a 15th-century statue of the Virgin Mary. 

Source: Reddit

In 2013, an American tourist gave the statue’s raised hand a high five. Sadly, the gesture ended up breaking the statue’s pinky finger.

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Leaving a Memento on a 3500-Year-Old Artifact

Human cave dwellers of prehistoric times were notorious for leaving drawings and inscriptions on the cave walls. These scribblings have given archaeologists insight into what existence was like for these prehistoric people. 

Source: Max Pixel

However, authorities were displeased when a 15-year-old boy scribbled “Ding Jinhao was here” on an Egyptian artifact at the Luxor Temple in 2003. The defaced artifact was 3500 years old.

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