We changed the experience each time. We didn't really want to, but it couldn't be helped. Simply being there
would have an impact.
The only way we could preserve it as it was
, would have been to never visit again. But then there would have been no value in preserving it anymore.
Many of us were in favor of restoration projects, to bring everything back to an older state, before the influx of all those visitors, but would it still be authentic after that? The more we had to restore, the more we might as well have been building an replica of what we felt it should have been like. And the more time that passed, the less we could know
exactly what things were like in the old days. We were left only with impressions and personally biased views of what the experience used to be.
Should we have just left things to change naturally as time went on? Eventually that would eliminate everything that gave it its original identity. Was there value in a completely new identity? That was a topic of heated debate. Some argued that something completely different was inevitable, that we were only fooling ourselves
by trying to recreate the past, because it could never be truly recovered. They saw restoration and preservation efforts as a waste of time and resources.
Others argued for more efforts to preserve the lessons and experiences of the past, in one form or another
, for as long as we still could. The longer they could delay the deterioration of what they valued, the more they saw the project as worthwhile.
Even as discussions dragged on, tourists continued to pour in, wanting to experience all that they had heard about, some with our approval, and some going out of their way to get what they could their own way. It was hard enough protecting things when normal visitors arrived, but with those who wanted more than we thought acceptable
, it was a real challenge. They didn't recognize our stewardship. They claimed their need for access was greater than normal circumstances would warrant, or that they simply didn't care about the arbitrary limits we placed on how much, how often, or what they could do during their visits.
Ironically enough, the greater the value
we placed on the visits, the more limits we wanted to place over such tourists, to prevent them from damaging the experience for others.
We were victims of our own success I suppose. The more word got around, the more difficult our own jobs became
. We tried to direct some visitors to similar sites elsewhere. Maybe they could get what they wanted there, instead of burdening us with their demands. That didn't always work.
There were always true believers that were only satisfied with having access to the original. No replica or summary could satisfy them. They didn't believe in secondary experience
. They were sure the rest of us would get something wrong or leave something out.
Some tried to infiltrate our organization. We left the more benign ones alone, as long as they showed us they too cared about preserving the experience for others. That didn't mean changes didn't slip through on a regular basis. Sometimes we wondered if some changes were even worth rolling back
. Perhaps randomness did occasionally improve things.
It wasn't easy determining what we wanted to preserve and what we wanted to let go of. We knew what we loved
, what we enjoyed, but that wasn't necessarily what other visitors wanted out of our stewardship. And if they saw things differently, it often led to a confrontation with no easy resolution.