Posted on September 28, 2012
By Rebecca Mir
Each year, over 40 million people travel to see the sights in New York City. I see tourists everyday; they arrive by bus, train, and plane, find a place to stay, take their chances on the subway and/or hail taxi cabs, and spend time visiting museums, monuments, restaurants, and bars. Two years ago as I started researching nineteenth-century guidebooks for a digital exhibition project with a colleague, I began to wonder: Do these visitors realize they are participating in a relatively new phenomenon, visiting many of the same sites as their intrepid nineteenth-century counterparts? Do New Yorkers realize how much tourism in the nineteenth century shaped their city? And in what ways could historians engage locals and visitors with that information?
I was able to address that last question when I took a course that encouraged exploring various modes of displaying and curating artifacts through digital media projects. My first concern was the content: How could I discuss the social lives of certain monuments, emphasize that the city was rapidly changing at the end of the nineteenth century, and refer to key concepts in the history of urban tourism (e.g. transportation, sightseeing)? Since I continued studying those nineteenth-century guidebooks for my master’s qualifying paper, I chose my favorite to serve as the basis for the project. Manhattan: Historic and Artistic, written by Cynthia M. Westover Alden and published in 1897, comes close to the type of guidebook that tourists use today. It has helpful maps, an itinerary for six-day trip complete with site-specific information, and a brief history of the city for new visitors.
Read full post here. (Originally posted September 25, 2012)