Yesterday, The Lady and I got home at about the same time. We settled down in the kitchen with our first cocktails of the evening and shared the day's events. I went first; pretty uneventful. No problems.
The Lady, on the other hand, had a couple of stories, one of them downright tragic, from our point of view. To refresh, The Lady, among other things, works at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. We refer to it as "the Mountain."
On one of the tours up on the Mountain today, a teenage girl fainted. This is a pretty common occurrence, especially in the summer, and tends to happen mostly to teenage girls. This fainting spell had disastrous consequences, however.
In the House on the tour, one passes from Jefferson's Book Room to his bedroom by going past his Cabinet, or office. In this office are a number of fascinating objects, many of them original to Jefferson. One of the neatest things there is a revolving book stand, probably designed by Jefferson and built at the Monticello joinery by a slave, possibly John Hemings. It's an ingenious, yet simple device. This is what it looks like:
The one in the picture is actually a repro available through the Monticello gift shop. As you can see, it allows a prolific reader to keep a number of open books close at hand.
So, this girl faints, pitches headlong into the Cabinet, hitting Jefferson's desk, which sends the book stand flying into the air. It lands with a crash on the floor, breaking.
The Lady is not sure of the extent of the damage to this priceless historical object, but any damage cannot be good.
Both The Lady and I were horrified by this. It really bought home how easily things like this can happen up at Monticello. Monticello is a very open place; there are only ropes to keep you out of spaces which the Foundation does not want the general public to have access to. Granted, a number of the spaces are alarmed, but what good is that? By the time anyone can respond to the alarm, the damage is done. And this was an accident (although The Lady and I are really down on teenage girls starving themselves into fainting spells at this point in time...). What if some nut job decides to sneak a hammer into the house and go after the Houdon bust of Jefferson, valued at $15 million? There is really nothing to stop such a person, and that really worries me. There are a large number of historically significant objects at Monticello, many of them within arm's reach. The famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of Jefferson (co-owned by Monticello and the National Portrait Gallery) is displayed in a way that if you lean over to look at it, it's only a few feet away. This is just not right. I believe the original objects should be in a museum environment built somewhere on the Mountain and the House should be stocked with very good reproductions. Why take the risk of having priceless, historical and irreplaceable objects within reach of the public? Especially a modern public with little or no appreciation of the significance of what they are viewing.