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I've always been blown away holding or seeing close up a priceless historical treasure. For example, if you visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, you can touch a moon rock. The stone is bonded to the viewing case, so some nefarious individual cannot steal it, but you can actually experience one small touch for man.

Pieta - Photo by Stanislav Traykov

Other things are to be seen but not felt. A few years back, The New York Public Library sponsored an exhibit where I saw a draft copy of the Declaration of Independence, in Jefferson's own hand. The same exhibit showcased the stuffed bear belonging to Christopher Robin Milne, son of A.A. Milne, who was inspired by the bear to create the Winnie the Pooh series. The Library also contains a rare copy (only about 29 survive) of the Gutenberg Bible. Aside from those rare treasures, I was able to view up close and personal, one of the four copies of the Magna Carta, at an exhibit sponsored by the Bar Association.

The one artifact that most amazed me, on several levels, was on display temporarily in the United States almost 60 years ago, at the New York World's Fair. The Vatican had a pavilion, wherein the Pieta was on display. Not a copy, not a prototype, the actual Michelangelo masterpiece. Even as a youngster I was amazed that the Church would consent to ship something so priceless across the ocean. Yes, the sculpture was exquisitely packed and there was a homing beacon in case the freighter (aptly named the Christopher Columbus) sunk, but still?

The Pieta was moved before, from its Florence birthplace to Rome centuries ago, but this journey to the US was a first, and I strongly suspect, the last. Of course you can still visit St. Peter's Basilica and see the Pieta, but the idea of it, and other treasures such as those noted above coming to a city near you remains an intriguing possibility. Not that you'll be able to rent out the Magna Carta for Sweet 16's or Bar Mitzvah's, but a priceless artifact coming to me rather than vice versa is an experience that even the memory of continues to tantalize.


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