Tourists – are they strangers in the night?
Are tourists in the museums strangers to us – strangers in the night – like vessels passing the exhibitions, wondering, casting glances at the artifacts? Is there any chance of sharing love for the artifacts?
The world Tourism Organization defines tourists as people who “travel to and stay in places outside their usual environment for more than twenty-four hours and not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited.”
My museum, the
”No other sentiment draws men to Jerusalem
than the desire to see and touch the places where Christ was physically
present, and to be able to say from our very own experience “we have gone into
his tabernacle and adored the very places where his feet have stood.”
Paulinus of Nola, late 4th century
texts of the exhibition are in Norwegian and in English. To market this exhibition for tourists
advertisements, in both Norwegian and English, have been placed in tourist
magazines, papers and special magazines. There have been press releases and
invitations, special guided tours, information at the tourist office in
The exhibition has been given special focus in the museum’s autumn programme, with many lectures and arrangements related to pilgrims and pilgrimages. This programme has been sent out, along with the exhibition news paper, to over 6000 addresses. And in May I went to St. Petersburg with the other representatives from Oslo Town Council to talk about the Old Town of Oslo and, of course my museum, for a large group of Russian tour operators.
opened on the 5th of June and this summer there has been an increase
in the number of visitors with more than two per cent. It is not very much, but
a positive trend. The exhibition also shows the classical artifacts in a in a
well known connection, pilgrimage through centuries and places. This museum is
visited by people from the area, but also tourists from all over
of my museums, The Viking Ship Museum, has the largest number of visitors in
is monumental and like a grave tomb for the ships. One of the problems is there
is no room for anything else. We cannot change the exhibition, we can not offer
the tourists a cup of coffee and we can’t do anything about the horrific noise
made when all the tourist guides talk at the same time. Perhaps not a good idea
for me to say this, but for the people of
We recently managed to make small new exhibition on the mezzanine, where we displayed the human skeletons from both the Oseberg ship and the Gokstad ship. A lot of research has been carried out on these skeletons, who for more than a thousand years ago were buried in the ships; the Oseberg lady, with perhaps a servant and 12 horses, sledges, wagons, and every day utensils, AND the Gokstad chieftain with a lot of hunting and warrior equipment. Along with the exhibition, many people have come to listen to lectures about the results of the research.
The people who visit museums of cultural history can be characterized as “cultural tourists”. They travel to experience, learn and perhaps evaluate the exhibitions, history and heritage. As such, they belong to the Western tradition and way of thinking, where visiting museums is seen as part of a classical education. The basis of this thinking is founded on the Greco-Roman and later Christian cultural heritage. We are not born human, it is said, and being human is something we become. Our natures are formed, developed and cultivated, intellectually, aesthetically, morally and socially. It is all about forming our personality in a confrontation with history, ancient and modern art and in the meeting with other people.
It is said the cultural tourism is the fastest growing segment in the tourism industry because there is specialization among tourists. And, in reference to the Pilgrimage exhibition, one form of this new specialized tourism involves religious travel or pilgrimages.
Already the ancient Greeks and
Romans travelled around in their world, and these
travels left their marks in history: the
The Roman philosopher Cicero (106 – 43 B.C.) writes about travelling in his work “Philosophy in Tusculum” in 45 B.C.: Those who are proud of having seen the Bosporus – where the mighty ocean divides Europe and Asia – imagine how they will feel when they see the whole earth and consider not only the earth’s position, form and outline, but also all the inhabited and uninhabited places on earth?
As a philosopher
I would just like to reflect for a second on the idea of the immortality of the soul and the need of the same soul to undertake a journey to the Gods or the forefathers. The idea is almost alike in all religions and beliefs. Is our travelling today just a preparation for the last voyage?
There’s no place like home
It is best to stay at home, thought the ancient Romans and Greeks and stressed their patriotism, love of home and the hardships of travel. But although Homer’s poem of Odysseus’ travels is full of trials and tribulations – and despite all this misfortune, Odysseus IS the big hero after all.
The only “proper” way to travel for Greeks
and Roman, if they left their country, was east. At least once in a lifetime, a
wealthy Roman was expected go to
One of the earliest pilgrims we know
is Pausanias, who wandered around in
The church as a tourist magnet
Pilgrimage is the voyage to sanctuaries and the most powerful act is to touch a relic. Relics from the Holy Cross, remains from skeletons from the disciples, and all sort of things having belonged to holy people, attracted visitors to the church having these things in its custody. The Christians inherited the custom of inhumation from the Jews; in the Roman society cremation was usual. But the grave of Christ was empty after his Ascension and pilgrims and relic hunters had to focus their attention on other items.
Then the hunt for relics started; the more relics the more visitors, money and power to the shrine in question. Pilgrims also needed hostels and food and often gifts for the church and shrine. A pilgrimage grew more and more into a business...
In 829 the Venetians plundered the
grave of St. Mark, the Apostle and Evangelist in
The remains of the Apostle added
Among the most unfortunate
collectors of relics were some English clerics. They had bought a saint’s mummy
for a large sum of money in
The most famous and precious relics
were those connected to Christ himself. But as he did not leave any human remains
on earth, the collectors found bits of the Holy Cross and collected his milk
teeth. There are now said to be 500 of Christ’s baby teeth. But the perhaps the
most curious relic from Christ is his foreskin, from his circumcision when he
was 8 weeks old. The most well known is
probably the one in the Cathedral of Metz in
There was at substantial growth in
the wine industry in the wake of the pilgrims during late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Special hostels, public-houses and taverns for
those on pilgrimage were built along the roads. In Medieval times several pilgrims
drank their way through
The Grand Tour
I do not know if there is a connection between pilgrimages of the Middle Ages and the Grand Tour. Pilgrimages were often made for the sake of salvation, health or as a punishment; the Grand Tour was undertaken mainly by upper-class European young men of means. The aims for the Grand Tour were to educate English gentlemen. The custom of the Grand Tour flourished from about 1660 until the introduction of large-scale steam –powered transportation in 1850’s. Then travel became cheaper to undertake, easier, safer and open to everyone.
The Grand Tour is linked to the British
aristocracy and wealthy families, but also youth from
The main cause for travelling was to be exposed to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance and to do the aristocratic and fashionable society of the European continent. A Grand Tour could last from several months to several years. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a knowledgeable guide and tutor and, if possible, by several servants. The idea of travelling for the sake of curiosity and learning was a developing idea in the 17th century.
Grand Tourists could return home with crates of art, books, pictures, sculptures, and items of culture. These things would be displayed in cabinets, gardens and drawing rooms as well as in galleries built purposely for their display: The grand Tour became a symbol of wealth and freedom. But the travelers of the Grand Tour were also criticized for the lack of adventure and the Tour was said to reinforce the old prejudices about national stereotypes. Jean Gailhard observes in the Complete Gentleman (1678): “French courteous. Spanish lordly. Italian amorous. German clownish”.
The Grand Tour exposed the English upper-class to the cultural objects, paintings, music and art thus keeping the interest of these items open to the ruling class in the society. Perhaps this interest also formed the basis for the many Museums that came into being at this time.
Hans Sloane was first baronet and an
Ulster-Scot physician and collector. His collections were donated to the
British nation after his death and became the foundation of the
Hans Sloane was born in
When Sloane retired from his
profession in 1741 his library and cabinet of curiosities had grown to be of
unique value. On his death on the 11 January 1753 he bequeathed his books,
manuscripts, prints, drawings, flora, fauna, medals, coins, seals, cameos and
other curiosities to the nation on condition that the Parliament should pay his
Authors and artists on tour
Many authors, painters and composers
travelled abroad from their own homeland during the
19th century. Schools of Arts in
Authors did their own trip abroad. To be local
Tolstoy travelled abroad. He sought the freedom of
the Western world. For Tolstoy it was
also important to learn about the school system of the West, as he wanted to
found a school to teach the children of the peasants in Yasna
Polyana. Tolstoy was a fan of the Swiss author and
philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and in 1857 he left
The famous Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen stayed for 27 years in
Artists travelled abroad in order to be free and develop their thinking at a distance to their own home. They had the possibility to reflect and open up to other cultures, social conditions and cultural heritage. It was possible to live together with colleagues, see the famous and sacred old buildings, discover new ways of life and evaluate ones own moral standards. All this influence on art and gave us the literature, paintings and music that can change lives.
Cabinets of Curiosities
Curiosity cabinets – also known as cabinets of wonders of the 16th and 17th century included all sorts of attractive or interesting objects. Rare items were especially prized. Peter the Great and other wealthy collectors amazed their visitors with never-before-seen shells, bones, medicinal plants, minerals, paintings, cannons and clocks. They were categorized as naturalia (products of nature) artificialia (products of man including textiles, coins, weapons, furniture, prints) and scientificalia (scientific instruments).
The two most famously described 17th century cabinets were those of Ole Worm (1588 – 1654) and Athanasius Kircher (1620 – 1680) These seventeenth-century cabinets were filled with preserved animals, horns, tusks, skeletons, minerals, as well as other types of equally fascinating man-made objects, sculptures wondrously old, clockwork automata; ethnographic specimens from exotic locations
The cabinets of curiosities were
limited to those who could afford to create and maintain them. Often the kings
themselves developed large collections. As for example Peter the Great’s Kunstkamera founded in
These cabinets were only shown to visiting diplomats, the royal family and court and magnates. They were not open to the public.
I find there is an interesting connection between the pilgrims and pilgrimages, the Grand Tour travelers, the cabinets of curiosity and the modern museums.
The Museum of Cultural History
At that time
On the 2nd of September
Strangers in the night
We need the humanistic heritage to gain a cosmopolitan ideal and an established empathic attitude towards life. To encourage human reflection and to be able to evaluate yourself as a human being is necessary in order to keep a peaceful democracy. It is also a prerequisite for developing your own character and intellect.
We know something about our tourists – they are not strangers in the night. They are those who travel to experience the unique objects, those who are drawn to the places and museums where they can touch and feel the history and the culture of mankind near to their mind and soul. We must pass the culture and history to them as stories, as curiosities and as questions of the connection between ourselves and other cultures and periods of history belonging human beings.
Strangers in the night are those who do not visit museums. Can we raise the question – does everybody have to visit museums? Does everybody have to be interested? Are museums still going to be a place of interest if we work to please everybody? We can not make museums into Disney lands to please everybody.