World’s Oldest Souvenirs Included All Kinds Of Contraband

berlin wall fragment
Garry Wilmore, Flickr

Who here doesn’t have a collection of mini monuments, fridge magnets, key rings and mugs collected on vacation? For as long as humans have been traveling, we’ve had an inexplicable urge to bring back some sort of object that reminds us of our trip, and that’s the focus of a new exhibit by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. But don’t be fooled, you won’t find any mugs or magnets here.

The collection displays some of the world’s oldest souvenirs and harks back to a time when travelers clearly didn’t have to contend with airport customs officials. You see, back in the early days, there were no souvenir shops attached to museums where you could pick up your trinkets, so tourists eager for a knick-knack just took whatever they wanted. On display is one traveler’s souvenir of a napkin that belonged to Napoleon, and another tourist’s odd collection of hair, including tresses that belonged to George Washington.Other souvenirs that would clearly be illegal to buy or take today include pieces of the Berlin Wall, a fragment of Plymouth Rock and a piece of marble chipped off the cornerstone of the Washington Monument. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that we started catching on that taking home actual relics and historical objects was a bad idea, and it was this realization that sparked a boom in souvenirs — as shops started manufacturing the kitsch Eiffel Tower statues and collectible teaspoons that we know today.

Still, the abundance of souvenir shops doesn’t stop some travelers from collecting their own unique mementos. Last year, Rome chastised tourists for stealing bits of the city’s cobblestone roads and mosaics, while in Dublin, religious relics were stolen from a historic church. In South Australia, someone managed to walk away with the bones and jaw of a whale that was on display in a tourist park, though at two meters long, we’re not sure exactly how they stuffed that into their luggage.

Do you know of any other strange souvenirs that travelers have collected?

The World’s Largest American Flag Takes 600 People To Unfurl (VIDEO)

Patriotic displays don’t get much bigger than this. At 505 feet wide and 3,000 pounds, “The Superflag” is the world’s largest American flag. Each star on the enormous banner is nearly two stories high, and it takes 600 people to unfurl it. lf this giant giant version of “Old Glory” looks familiar (besides, of course, the standard stars and stripes), that’s because it makes stops at events across the country. It’s been displayed at the Super Bowl, Daytona International Speedway, the Washington Monument and even on the face of the Hoover Dam. Check out the above video of the flag at a recent Flag Day celebration at Longaberger Basket HQ in Ohio. But remember: it’s not the size of your flag that matters, it’s how you use it.

Celebrate July Fourth On The National Mall

Fireworks over the National MallIf you’re looking for a unique and fun way to celebrate Independence Day today, and you’re fortunate enough to live close to Washington D.C., you may want to drop by the National Mall to take part in the annual festivities. The iconic monuments and memorials that make up the Mall should make for an inspiring backdrop to a full day of events.

Among the more memorable attractions on the National Mall are the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The three presidents to which those sites are dedicated all played a vital role in forging the U.S. as a nation and today they will each be remembered for their leadership.

Activities on the Mall begin with a parade along Constitution Avenue that gets underway at 11:45 a.m. and runs through 2 p.m. Following the parade a group of park rangers will gather at the Jefferson Memorial where they’ll present a portrayal of life in America circa 1776. The nearby Sylvan Theater will play host to activities for the Junior Rangers from 3-8:30 p.m. and a live concert featuring the U.S. Army Band will begin at 6 p.m. Each of these activities will help set the stage for the impressive fireworks display that will take place between 9:10-9:30 p.m.

Directions to the Mall can be found on the NPS website and visitors are encouraged to arrive early. There are no entrance fees to any of the events or monuments and it is sure to be both a fun and educational way to celebrate the occasion.

Happy Independence Day!

[Photo credit: Leafsfan67 via WikiMedia]

Video from inside the Washington Monument during the earthquake

Video from inside the Washington Monument during the earthquake last monthYesterday, the National Park Service released video from inside of the Washington Monument showing just how much the structure shook during that 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the East Coast last month. Startled visitors and park rangers appear uncertain of what to do at first, then begin to calmly and orderly move down the building, with one ranger in the lead and another staying behind to ensure that everyone gets out safely. As the video continues, debris begins to fall, obscuring the view to a degree, and giving an indication of the amount of a damage suffered to the interior.

The Park Service says that the monument is structurally sound, although it is unclear at this time when it will reopen. A team of engineers will begin a comprehensive inspection of the obelisk today by repelling down the side of the structure. That will take about five days to complete, but the overall assessment won’t be finished until sometime later in October. From there, renovations will get underway, while the building also undergoes its annual preparation for winter as well.


Needling replaces planking as the new meme in Seattle

Planking is so early 2011.

At least that’s the case in Seattle where locals and tourists have moved on to “needling,” i.e., posing like the Space Needle. Started about two weeks ago by a few bored PR folks who wanted to “disrupt Seattle’s weather doldrums with a little fun,” the needling meme now has its own Tumblr website Do the Needle, where anyone can submit needling photos. So far, Do the Needle has collected photos of people needling in front of Seattle landmarks, such as the, uh, Space Needle and Pike Place Market, and as far afield as Boston’s Fenway Park.

It’s easy to see how needling could catch some buzz, as it’s far more inventive than planking or the equally silly owling. But I wonder if this show of Seattle pride could lead to modified versions around the world? Maybe by this time next month, we’ll bring you news of people posing like the Burj Khalifa, the CN Tower, or the Washington Monument.

What famous landmark would you like to see turned into a meme? Tell us in the comments below.

[Photo credit: Do the Needle]