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April 30, 2012

Museums have long served as surrogates for travel

“Museums have long served as surrogates for travel, a particularly important role before the advent of mass tourism. They have from their inception preserved souvenirs of travel, as evidence in their collections of plants, animals, minerals, and examples of the arts and industries of the world’s cultures. While the museum collection itself is an undrawn map of all the places from which the materials have come, the floor plan, which determines where people walk, also delineates conceptual paths through what becomes a virtual space of travel. Exhibiting artifacts from far and wide, museums have attempted from an early date to reconstruct the places from which these things were brought. The habitat group, period room, and re-created village bring a site otherwise removed in space or time to the visitor. During the nineteenth century, exhibitions delivered to one’s door a world already made smaller by the railroad and steamship. Panoramas featured virtual grand tours and simulated the sound and motion of trains and ships and the atmospheric effects of storms at sea. A guide lectured and otherwise entertained these would-be travelers. Such shows were celebrated in their own day as substitutes for travel that might be even better than actually going to the place depicted.”
–Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (1998)

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day


2 Responses to “Museums have long served as surrogates for travel”

  1. DEK Says:

    In a good museum you can also time travel.

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