Recently, news regarding the conduct of local tourists misbehaving at an art exhibition in the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur went viral.
Art pieces meant to be admired from afar were instead treated callously as photoshoot props and playthings, with some being badly damaged in the process.
While the public has been rightfully outraged over the matter, this is not the first time that museums and other tourist sites have been victimised by these thoughtless, misbehaving visitors.
Here are some stories of the worst tourists severely damaging irreplaceable works of art and historical artefacts:
1. Bored teenager scribbles on ancient Egyptian temple wall
Back in May 2013, Chinese social media exploded with outrage when a certain picture of a defaced ancient Egyptian temple wall made the rounds.
Scribbled in Mandarin script onto the surface of the stone sculpture were the words, “Ding Jinhao was here.”
The Luxor Temple, where the sculpture can be found, is considered among Egypt’s most important archaeological sites and has been around since 1400 BC.
Many Chinese social media users saw this act as an affront to national pride and started an online manhunt for the 15-year-old boy whose parents apologised for his conduct.
Even though Egyptian authorities had no issue removing the engraving, the Chinese government promptly released a statement reminding Chinese nationals to behave themselves when overseas.
2. 2,000-year-old terracotta soldier has its thumb stolen
Upon the death of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, the man was buried with a literal army of terracotta soldiers, meant to safeguard him in the afterlife.
The Terracotta Army has since become one of China’s most well-known historical artefacts, with its soldiers occasionally being loaned out to museums all over the world.
One of these statues made its way to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, where it promptly got its thumb broken off.
Michael Rohana was identified by the FBI as the culprit, with the man having taken a selfie with the soldier during a Christmas party before he snapped off its thumb as a “souvenir”.
The Chinese authorities were indignant about the incident and criticised the museum for its carelessness.
3. Selfie ends up destroying 126-year-old statue
While it is not inherently wrong to take a selfie, where, when and how it is done does matter a fair bit.
After all, how many cases of selfie-takers getting themselves injured or even killed have already been reported?
In this 2016 case though, it was not the selfie-taker who was harmed, but rather a 126-year-old statue of King Sebastian of Portugal which was smashed into pieces courtesy of the culprit.
The 24-year-old selfie-taker had climbed up the façade of the Rossio railway station in Lisbon to pose next to a statue of the tragic figure of Portuguese history when he toppled it over.
It fell off its pedestal and came crashing down, shattering into many pieces.
The young man attempted to flee the scene but was apprehended by Portuguese police; the statue could not be replaced and its pedestal remains empty today.
4. Curious couple clumsily clobber costly clock
Many museums have signs posted that read, “Do not touch.” A simple message that unfortunately goes unread from time to time.
In 2016, a couple visiting the National Watch & Clock Museum in Pennsylvania was enthralled by one of the displays, a clock and art piece by American clockmaker, James Borden.
For nearly a full minute, as his wife watched on without protest, the man childishly prodded at and played around with the clock’s movable parts.
His antics finally came to a stop when the parts of the clock became imbalanced and the whole thing came crashing down in a pile.
To their credit, the couple immediately owned up to their mistake and the museum did not press charges against them, with Borden eventually repairing his art piece.
5. Old painting worth US$1.5 million comes with new fist-sized hole
In what could possibly be the worst nightmare of any museum curator, an accident at a 2015 art exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan left a gaping hole in a valuable 17th century painting.
The culprit of this accident was a 12-year-old boy who was on a family trip at the time, visiting the Huashan 1914 Creative Park.
At the time, the museum was playing host to several paintings from overseas, including “Flowers” by Paolo Porpora, an artist of the late-Baroque period.
During the unfortunate incident, the boy accidentally tripped over the rope barrier surrounding the painting and extended his arms to break the fall.
With a fist-sized hole left in the painting valued at US$1.5 million, the museum decided not to charge the boy for the damages caused, but instead, banned him from ever visiting any of the galleries again.
6. Restless children, irresponsible parents lead to broken artwork
In a case somewhat similar to what happened in the National Art Gallery, local tourists happen to bear responsibility for this incident in 2016.
Taking place in the Shanghai Museum of Glass, CCTV footage caught two boys touching and pulling at the wall-mounted sculpture, “Angel is Waiting” by Shelly Xue.
Rather disturbingly, the boys’ mothers are seen in the video just smiling at their irresponsible and dangerous antics, even whipping out their phones to record the scene.
Soon enough, a piece of the sculpture falls off and only then do the ladies call their sons back to their sides.
Xue had spent 27 months on her artwork, which was dedicated to her new-born daughter, and decided not to fix the sculpture, instead aptly renaming it “Broken”.
A television set was later installed next to the sculpture, with the aforementioned CCTV footage played on loop.