While in Britain I have already made good use of the good train connections to explore as much as possible of the culture of this wonderful country and will continue to do so. Upon arriving I visited the ruins of 13th century Netley Abbey, subject of my Bachelor’s thesis and a popular tourist attraction from the mid 18th century onwards. As this was very important to my thesis I was glad to visit it and much intrigued to continue my investigations into the tourism of today and of yesteryear. (The image to the left belongs to the British Library.)
What does one expect as a tourist, and what does one actually see? How do sketches, photographs, descriptions affect both one’s expectations and one’s memories of what one has seen? Do souvenirs actually help us to remember, and if they do, what do they help us to remember?
On my first weekend off I went to Oxford, visiting, among other things, the Ashmolean Museum (which is fantastic, I recommend it). Here I found this 18th century painting, a sort of fantasy of Rome: fantasy because it combines in one composition several monuments and sculptures that have never been viewable in this constellation. These kinds of paintings were very popular souvenirs of sightseeing in Rome at the time.
Once again then, what are souvenirs actually for? They are to help us remember, obviously, but what is it that we are to remember? All that we have seen, no matter when, where or how? A dream version of what we have seen, unattainable for the eye but rememberable for the mind and imagination? Panini’s Capriccio may not be a truthful depiction of Rome, but in the same way I can choose to change the lighting or choose an angle that excludes other people from my photograph…and who will ever know? Will I even remember it, myself?
What I do know is that I will remember my adventures in Netley, Bath and Oxford with a recollection of my happiness in these places, if nothing else.