Travel Chronicles: Tourism, Memory, and the Emergence of Modern America
A tourist's journey is a transitory experience. This ephemerality has long encouraged travelers to pen diaries or compile scrapbooks to preserve their adventures. The Anthony J. Stanonis Travel Scrapbook and Diary Collection at Loyola University New Orleans, along with the other archival holdings digitalized as part of the Leisure, Travel & Mass Culture: The History of Tourism resource, brings together some of these scattered items. The broader literary and consumer culture certainly mediated tourists' experiences during their respective times. As theorist Dean MacCannell contends, "Usually, the first contact a sightseer has with a sight is not the sight itself but with some representation thereof." Yet vacationers were not mere pawns of marketers. Tourists pursued attractions according to their own interests, outlining their personalized itineraries through their writings or compilation of travel paraphernalia. They arranged the mass-produced pamphlets, brochures, business cards, postcards, and other ephemera into scrapbooks to construct a permanent memory of their experiences with meaning distinct to each individual. Through the efforts of Adam Matthew Digital, tourists' accounts preserved at Loyola University New Orleans as well as other archives can easily be correlated with the ample records of tour companies and promotional materials of boosters to grasp a more well-rounded understanding of American and global travel during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In doing so, users can spy the creation of the modern world in which hundreds of millions of vacationers now annually crisscross the planet.
The ephemeral experiences of tourists preserved in travel diaries and scrapbooks tell us more than just the history of vacationing. Historian John Urry emphasizes the importance of unpacking the "tourist gaze" both in terms of how sites are presented by marketers and perceived by travelers. He further explains that tourism involves the "notion of 'departure', of a limited breaking with established routines and practices of everyday life and allowing one's senses to engage with a set of stimuli that contrast with the everyday and the mundane." For Americans, the pursuit of happiness evolved by the late nineteenth century to create a nation that embraced personal reinvention, migration, and innovation. Technology and prosperity were transforming the United States into an increasingly touristic society. Departures from the everyday became more feasible and affordable. To appreciate the wider significance of the travel accounts preserved in the Anthony J. Stanonis Travel Scrapbook and Diary Collection as well as other archival holdings, it is worth taking stock of American society back when mass tourism, though still a fledgling industry, came to define American life.