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Alan Machin's Blog - November '08

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Image: Kodak Bullseye Special - 1898

Tourist Photography: Kodak Bullseye Special


Following yesterday's posting, this Bullseye Special camera shows the kind of wooden construction that George Eastman adopted in his Kodak cameras.

The left-hand photo shows the film winding butterfly handle and the introduction of a viewfinder using a small mirror. In the second photo the front panel has been removed: the lens and shutter mechanism are much more sophisticated. A rod acts as the cocking device with the shutter release on the left hand side of the lens mount. The viewfinder is clearly seen. The third picture is of the wooden camera carcass lifted out of its box - a metal pull-tab releases it. The spool of film would this time be inserted by the camera owner on the hidden side of the camera; the paper-backed film pulled part way out and wrapped round two thin rollers, one of which is seen at the left, rear. The leading edge is fed into the take-up spool and wound forward a short way. The whole assembly is replaced in the camera bo and latched tight. A small, red window is used to view markers and numbers printed on the film backing and the take-up spool is wound further ro bring unexposed film into the picture-taking position. When all the pictures are exposed the film is removed and sent for developing and printing, or the photographer takes it to a darkroom to do the job themselves.

The whole process is simplified and speeded up. A travelling photographer could take a set of films along and return them for developing at convenient intervals. There was now no need to await the return of the reloaded camera - shooting could continue every day.

Image: Eastman and his original Kodak camera

Tourist Photography: The Kodak Camera


The camera obscura beloved of artists an an aid to drawing landscapes and figures (see posting 09.11.08) gave the chance to make the great step to photography. By replacing the ground glass screen at the front of the box by a light-sensitive medium, Louis Daguerre in France and William Henry Fox-Talbot in England - both in 1839 - succeeded in making permanent images. From these beginnings the modern camera began. The devices which followed used glass, paper or metal plates to support the photosensitive media in use. these required complex development, either as permanent and positive images on the plate or as negtive images on glass plates which then had to be printed onto paper in a second photographic operation. The camera user either had to carry the precious plates back to a darkroom where the chemical processes could be employed or they had to take a mobile darkroom in the shape of a special horse-drawn carriage into the field. A high level of skill, time and money as well as a range of chemicals were needed.

It was the American, George Eastman, who made the taking and developing of photographs much simpler in 1888. As a result home photographers and tourists could both have access to what were, for those days, good quality picture-making. Eastman's stroke of genious was to devise a simple box camera loaded with a paper roll-based film able to take 100 circular photographs. Anyone could buy the camera ready loaded with the film. After taking the hundred pictures virtually the whole camera was returned to Eastman's factory. The film was immediately replaced by a new roll and the wooden camera sent back to its owner. A few days later the printed photos followed. "You press the button and we do the rest" said Eastman's publicity. He had also created what became one of the greatest brands of modern times by called the camera a 'Kodak'. The word meant nothing - it sounded crisp and distinctive - which meant that with its growing success it came to mean everything for the amateur photographer. Tourist photography became available to the masses.

The camera was very different from those that followed. On receiving a Kodak the photographer cut a long string that was threaded around it like a parcel, holding the lens cover in place. It had to be parcelled up again when returning it for the film to be developed. The lens was fixed focus and fixed aperture. There was no viewfinder - a paper guide was supplied with the angle of view marked by two diverging lines, ready to be placed on the top of the box above the lens. The customer took a photo and carefully wound the film on until a brass indicator revolved once and lined up with a control mark. The shutter had to be cocked by tugging up a string on the top of the camera. It was fired by pressing a brass button on the left hand side. A steel butterfly winder was turned to advance the film.

The middle photo is of a replica of the original Kodak made at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, UK, in 1988, one of a limited edition. To the left is a photo of George Eastman taking a photo with his No 2 camera on board a ship in 1990. An early Kodak advert aimed at the new tourist market is at the right.

German Christmas Market Revisited


A student workshop discussion looking at heritage and authenticity brings up the subject of the German Christmas Market currently being held in Millennium Square, Leeds (see also 20.11.08). What is German about it? The beer .. the many cooked sausages on sale .. brassy music played loadly in the beer hall .. the stallholders and entertainers speaking German. What about the stall selling garlic bread - is that German? And aren't some of the stallholders south east Asian?

A German student in the class thinks it's really a Bavarian, Oktober beer-fest. The decorations are Bavarian. They're selling beer rather than the mulled wine found in real German Christmas markets. They're selling what the British think a Christkindelmarkt ought to be selling, is the implication. When she asked a stallholder something in German he apologied and said he only spoke Polish. The workshop discussion turned into one about nationality. Who could describe themselves as 'English'? Would the Yorkshire-born students from 'South Asian' families describe themselves as 'English'? Or would they have to say they were 'British'?. Watching and listening to the discussion - there were two Portuguese, a Pole, a Zimbabwean, an Omani and others in the class - it was obvious that those distinctions didn't mean a lot. Here was a bunch of students having what was becoming a hilarious debate about language and accents as I asked them to consider whether overseas destinations should adopt the French approach of requiring visitors to speak French where possible. They generally thought that an international language was needed for sheer practicality. Yet I know from talking with some of the overseas students individually that they suffered socially in many situations where the British entertainment culture failed to acknowledge their own ethics of behaviour and belief. They were often expected to drink alcohol and party when they really wanted a mix of hard work and a quieter kind of leisure time. They could feel people didn't want to know or care who they were and where they came from.

Getting to know a different culture isn't all a matter of Oktoberfests. There's hard individual effort to be made as well.

Garlic bread, anyone?

Image: John Betjeman

Summoned By Bells


I have been listening again to John Betjeman reading his 1960 autobiography, written in blank verse. Betjeman was one of those people who, like Alan Bennett and Stephen Fry, got described as a national treaure. He was a poet, broadcaster and writer of guide books and served as Poet Laureate. He helped to launch the 'Shell Guides' and wrote the Cornwall and Devon editions himself. Modern viewers (Betjeman died in 1984) would be most familiar with the BBC film Metroland about the underground line out to the north-western suburbs and countryside beyond London - and mainly there overground - and the places it served. Other films, books and articles ranged widely over the southern counties of England with a strong nostalgic streak but also a sharp, sometimes quite pithy, insight. It was John Betjeman who led the successful opposition to the demolition of St Pancras Station and that is where his statue (above) now stands looking up at the restored train shed in which Eurostar services now operate out through the Channel Tunnel to Paris and Brussels.

Poetry isn't often my favourite medium, but "Summoned By Bells" is magical and fresh even after almost 50 years. Betjeman reads it superbly well. The nostalgia for a childhood spent in a world of middle class prosperity is balanced by the fact that his relationship with his father became estranged and his days in public school were a total misery. What relieves the unhappier passages however is an avoidance of wallowing in the problems by escapes into exploring his home city, London, where with a friend he visited over time every single underground station while hunting out the churches which held his deep interest. Family holidays to Cornwall gave more opportunities to escape and explore and all his adult life he was turning his growing interest in architecture and history into books and TV films. "Summoned By Bells" is a delight full of treasures by - well - a national treasure.

Image: "Outdoor Education"

Book: "Outdoor Education: Methods And Strategies"


This book is an American publication in a tradition of wilderness and outdoor education stretching back to the early nineteenth century. It draws on a mix of adventure training, environmental interpretation and experiential learning. A large format hardback which is very well illustrated and designed, "Outdoor Education" would be highly useful at all kinds of levels. It covers theories, applications and a range of lesson plans. Particularly good is the link to environmental and visitor interpretation which raises the prospect of seeing the whole of travel as an educational activity, which is, of course, a key foundation to this present web site. If children learn from their surroundings through the use of interpretive media, then it follows that everyone else can do so, too - adult leisure and business travellers and anyone else who encounters through design or chance the visitor centres, guided walks and booklets which describe locations. It's a book packed with useful material.

Gilbertson et al (2006) Outdoor Education: Methods and Strategies, Champaign Il, Human Kinetics

Image: Barbecue at Brady's

Old Rice Farm: More About Brady


Another note about the wizard of the woodwork, that conjuror of the Kentucky cabins, Brady (previous posting).

Each year Brady has a party to which everyone around is invited. To get to his cabin takes a drive into the mountains up a side valley for half an hour (well, it's all of a mile) a 4x4 or a horse and buggy, like Brady uses, helps, because its a tricky ride along a running creek further up the valley. Cars which don't make it are left to one side and the owners walk. It's quicker.

At the cabin Brady has been roasting a whole hog since the day before the party over a coal-fire pit. A huge potluck is ready to share amongst the neighbours. Some prayers are said and gospel read. The feast begins.

After the main courses comes the ice cream, and this is special, because it's made on the spot by a one-horse-power ice cream maker. A horse. Brady leads his horse onto a sort of cart (in the photo) which has a treadmill. As the horse walks the treadmill turns a shaft connected to the mixing machine, and before long ice cream is on the way. When the dessert is finished the horse is put between the shafts of a buggy and hay rides are given to the kids. At the end of the fun and games everyone makes their way back down the creek, splashing through the water and deciding what the best bit of the day was: roast hog, horse-driven ice cream or hay rides. Or neighbourhood socialising, catching up with the gossip, and admiring the Appalachian scenery.

Image: The Cabin - details

Old Rice Farm: Brady


When Jay and Victoria Stevens bought their land in Kentucky to develop as accommodation and possibly a craftwork location with events and perhaps a restaurant [see previous postings], they had to win over local support. There are no statutory planning procedures in Estoril County, Kentucky, to be followed. On the other hand anyone trying to build what local people dislike is going to finish up without the support from the community that any developer requires.

Jay and Victoria spent time discussing their ideas with Barbara, the owner of Snug Hollow Farm, and took her advice. They then approached somone to build them their first cabin so that they would have a base from which to work on other tasks: a washed-out stretch of track up into the valley would have to have a rough-timber bridge built for vehicle access. Some clearing of wood and scrub was necessary longer-term to allow further cabins to be put up. Some of these jobs would not happen just yet - it's a long term project of maybe ten or more years. Fast build for quick returns isn't the style here and not what they wanted anyway as existing jobs, raising a family and recent changes in the economic situation all must come into play. But there is another consideration that doesn't come into the text books. Changes happen in this kind of community by organic growth. New projects must be grafted on to some existing branch of the growing life of the neighbourhood with care. Something just dropped into a convenient hole won't grow because it will be isolated from the slow-maturing valley culture. Incomers need to work with local folk, not apart from them.

Victoria and Jay had been recommended to talk to a local man, Brady, about the cabin that they wanted. Now Brady knows Red Lick Valley and the surrounding hills. He's the man who can fell timber, let it season with care, cut it into planks and poles, four-by-four framing strips and roof joists and panels. Brady isn't a natural go-by-the-book man. He wields a chain saw or a ripsaw to cut what he sees his buildings need by eye and the measure of his hands. Joints, wedges, pegged connections are made by him and they are in the long-established style of this part of the Appalachians as used over many long decades. What's more, Brady is one of a number of brothers who were brought up each to handle a part of the house-building trade - Brady the woodcraft, another brother the ironwork for hinges, latches anhd fixings, others for piping and wiring for the services everybody relies upon.

So they asked him to build them a cabin and he said no.

It wasn't clear at first why he was reluctant, but after a bit, says Victoria, it turned out that what he feared was some city slicker telling him what to build, in what shape and just how it should be fitted together. And he wasn't about to get involved in that.

So the Stevenses took a deep breath and said to Brady "OK, we want a cabin to stay weekends. You build it how you think it ought to be built - the sort of place people round here like to see".

So he did. Two floors, plain shape, much bigger than we in Britain would expect something called a cabin to be, but definitely not a big yankee house. It got a verandah along the front for sitting and talking and admiring the view. It got another verandah along the end by the place where the car gets parked and folks step up into the doorway. And out back it has a neat little shed with a large hole in the ground within and a lavatory seat placed just where it ought to be 'cause that's all you can have there until a modern septic tank can be installed.

Result: perfection. Built in the woods from the woods that grew on these hills. Slowly the plumbing and wiring will go in and staying overnight will become a natural thing to do, watching out for the deer and turkeys in the woods. And keeping a lookout also for the bears that are said might just be living round these here parts. Not seen one yet? Well, pour yourself another Jack Daniels and keep looking ..... you never know.

Image: Odd architectures

Strange Structures


Enough theorising! It's fun to find the fantastic and funky when travelling round out there. Gaudi's decorative buildings at Parc Guell in Barcelona are well known amongst a whole set of his works in Spain. How about the strange shape of The Deep in Hull, UK - left hand photo - which is a deep-sea aquarium and new tourist attraction. Next, above is a nuclear bunker preserved by English Heritage in York, UK (and not really a fun building at all, but certainly an oddity in the middle of the city). The old favourites, the biodomes of the Eden Centre in Cornwall, peer between dark shapes. There is also the Pompidou Centre in Paris - right-hand photo.

Below is a link to a fascinating website with even better oddities of architecure ... the house that 'fell' from the sky and crashed into a building below it ... a library built of huge books ... and many more.

Click here to be amazed! astounded! amused!


Image: Didactic - Interactive Spectrum

The Scale Of Things: Didactic v Interactive Interpretation In Tourist Attractions


Following yesterday's spectrum on museum aims, here are some thoughts about those tourist attractions which have as an important role communications with visitors. A number of media that they might use are placed along a scale according to the likely degree to which they allow interaction by visitors. Again, it's a subjective and personal viewpoint so you may want to move them around or add other media - fine. It also needs to be kept in mind that some of these channels of communication do themselves vary a lot in the level of interactivity. While all guidebooks are fixed, guided tours might offer a lot or a little opportunity for visitors to ask questions: computer terminals might be highly interactive or not very interactive - in the latter case because they only show a fixed sequence of information in which perhaps the language and speeds are the only features open to visitor control. In addition let's keep in mind that while interpretive media might not offer much chance for questioning in themselves, there might be excellent provision of staff at a help desk or else wandering around the venue, ready to answer queries.

Hand bats, by the way, are sometimes shaped like a kind of table-tennis bat, being cut out of plywood - an A4 sheet of printed paper being pasted onto the main part and a handle shape below allowing it to be held while viewing an exhibit. The Leeds Museum has a set looking like portrait-format mouse mats with colourful information printed on them. They look as though they have been made by a computer accessories company.

'Demonstrations' refers to someone showing some process (at the Royal Armouries it might be how a weapon is handled) while talking about it and then answering questions. Some demonstrations - craft processes at the Wedgwood visitor centre in Staffordshire come to mind - are done by skilled staff and public relations people answer questions. In the days when tours were made of the actual production areas it was possible to talk to the craftspeople themselves, but that interrupted production by the workers being paid on piece rates.

The four media (video to hand-bats) at the bottom left would all be at the same point on the scale but are separated here for clarity.

Above the line I have taken a stab at placing some university learning situations in appropriate positions along the same scale. Abbreviations are for: group presentations by students and student-led seminars. In these the students interact with the tutor as well as each other in varying amounts. Tutorials are one-to-one discussions with a tutor or one tutor to two or three students, with anyone taking a lead or reacting to discussions.

Didactic channels are largely one-way ('I talk, you listen' - and yes, my own students get plenty of that) although workshops, seminars or tutorials usually follow giving time for questions and arguments.

Just think of a fragile environment being visited by tourists somewhere around the globe. A communications strategy that supplies effective, appropriate channels along which information and questions can flow will be an essential tool for building sustainable situations.

Image: Conservation-Narration Spectrum

The Scale Of Things: Conservation v Narration In Museums


Museums are showcases for objects which they have in their collections and have to conserve for future generations. They also communicate the meaning and significance of those objects to visitors. Some of them tell the stories of the objects themselves in isolation. Others use the objects to tell a wider story - about the development of culture, technology or social conditions for example.

Students of this sort of attraction might consider a scale running from 'mainly conservation' to 'mainly narration' when looking for a typology of museums' major functions. The graphic above takes some Leeds museums and one from Halifax and tries to place them along the scale. Eureka! - from Halifax - is in many ways not a museum as it does not have a collection of objects that it attempts to conserve, but rather a range of them that it uses to tell children about their world and at the same time to help the same children to explore it. Near the other end of the scale Thwaites Mill, a largely-complete water-powered mill used for industrial processes is largely a conservation project of that mill: narration is important but has been added to the mill buildings and machinery which have not been rearranged to serve the story-telling. The Royal Armouries remains primarily a glass-case museum housing a world-ranking collection of armour and weapons but it does have highly-skilled interpreation through a number of media including drama and demonstrations - so it has been placed further along the line.

The Industrial Museum at Armley conserves artefacts which have, however, been arranged thematically to illustrate a number of stories - of textiles, the cinema, transport etc: it is further along again. The Abbey house Museum at Kirkstall tells social history stories using original objects but also reconstructed parts of buildings to create street scenes: rather less emphasis on the artefacts and more on the narrative. Thackray Medical Museum goes further with several displays composed of story-telling media supported by artefacts. On the other hand Leeds Museum has lots of objects on show although they have been set out to serve narrative purposes.

It's a subjective judgement - you may want to place the markers differently - but it's a useful way of analysing the mix of the two great driving forces that museums are powered by.

German Christmas Market


The annual visit by a set of market traders from German is well established in Leeds and well known elsewhere. For a month up to mid-December a beer hall is built on Millennium Square with wooden stalls all round selling German sausages, unusual chocolate-coated foods on sticks, stollen, Christmas decorations and presents. So tonight we went to see it and enjoyed the crowded conviviality of the beer hall. A lively brass band played and sang German songs plus some English favourites.

It's a great thing that they come over and add some tremendous entertainment to the city each December. Let's face it, a few decades ago it would probably have been difficult given our recent joint history. We can add to that the neat idea that instead of lots of Brits going to Germany as leisure tourists, our German friends come over here as business tourists and we all get to know each other's cultures a little bit more. Travel to understand - then travel some more and get to know each other some more!

Image: Leeds City Museum

Showcase: Leeds City Museum With A Story To Tell


For several years Leeds has been a major city without a general museum to tell its story and to showcase the collections that the city has acquired over more than two centuries. It has the Royal Armouries, the Thackray Medical Museum, Kirkstall's Abbey House Museum and Thwaites Mill, besides the City Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute, so it might be thought that it does pretty well. However, since the late eighteenth century local people have been collecting a stupendous range of objects and documents. It is said that over a million are now been cared for by the city's museum curators. In 1821 the Philosophical Hall was opened by the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. Exactly a century later it became the Leeds City Museum under the care of the City Council. Then during World War II bomb damage created havoc with the Hall: part was demolished immediately and the rest went in 1968 (and was replaced by what is now the HSBC Bank) with part of the collection having moved to premises above the Central Library. After years of hoping for a proper space to create a new museum plans began to take serious shape in the late 1990s. Work on converting the former Leeds Institute to the side of the Civic Hall began in 2005. Finally, two months ago, on 14 September 2008 the new City Museum was opened to the public.

It's a very fine museum. Spread over four floors of Cuthbert Brodrick's 1868 Institute, the museum is varied, colourful and brilliant in its story-telling. Indeed, the Leeds Story is the centre piece on floor 2 (there is no ground floor - the lower ground floor is succeeded upwards by what is termed floor 1) approached up the fine, curving Victorian staircase which impressed visitors all those decades ago. From prehistoric times to the present day the history of the area is shown in a very well organised set of displays, activities and video shows. Leeds' main history is that of an industrial city - it is given pride of place, while tempering that pride with acknowledgement of the grim conditions that often persisted there. The curators and designers have managed to include an excellent set of exhibits with something for all interests, young and old, within a very well used space. Some people might find it a little difficult to trace a clear chronology in detail as the array of items just flows around the gallery and is not segregated into 'ages' or according to centuries. On the other hand that would probably destroy the flow and be too artificial. There is also a great advantage in visitors being able to have maximum flexibility to go where they want, rather than be trapped in a rigid sequence like that of the Castle Museum in York. Large numbers of visitors will in any case find it easier to move around. However, the lack of clear signing in the corridor outside the gallery means that people probably enter first through a door half-way through the historic sequence, as I did. An invitation sign to 'Start Here' by going in through the door furthest away might have been preferable.

A delight of a gallery for the museum buff and the visitor interested in the changing fashions in collecting objects - and therefore understanding contemporary worlds - is the 'Collectors Cabinet' next to the shop. 'Cabinet' here refers to the kind of 'cabinet of curiosities' which would have held for display an esoteric collection of all kinds of objects from works of high art to mundane everyday items which attracted somebody's interest. Cannon Hall Museum near Barnsley has a shoe of someone who was struck by lightning: the event must have been the main importance rather than the nature of the shoe or its remains. Leeds Museum has all kinds of things in similar fashion - stuffed animals, ivory carvings, books, glass cases full of pinned-down butterflies and so on. This is my favourite of all the galleries here as it gives so many clues to an understanding of the ways in which different ages were exploring and interpreting their surroundings, both natural and man-made.

Other galleries, based on the collections Leeds amassed, are 'Ancient Worlds', 'World View' (culture and ethnography) and 'Life on Earth'. Within a relatively compact space this is a worthy and special city museum indeed.

[Centre photo: the museum guide book]


Responsible Tourism


The recent World Travel Market gave the platform for the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2008 in London. Professor Harold Goodwin of Leeds Met's International Centre for Responsible Tourism was the Chair of the juding panel, and wrote in the Daily Telegraph on 13 November about responsible tourism as follows:

"In the mid-Nineties, Voluntary Service Overseas asked its workers in communities in the developing world what were the principal problems facing those communities. The response was surprising: the main problem was tourism. A year or two later it would have been Aids, but in 1995 VSO found that many communities had “felt the sharp end of tourism” and were “desperate for change”. Volunteers reported that “losing land, water and access to public places are common complaints, and tourism has very clearly been associated with serious social abuses such as child sex tourism and the eviction of people from their land”. Pollution from tourism is not just about our carbon footprint.

Tourism, of course, can also bring development and employment; it can transform people’s lives. Most of the world’s national parks are in remote areas; they were gazetted as protected areas precisely because they had not been developed. Tourism, if well managed, can provide jobs and income for local communities.

The Gambia is an ever-popular destination for British tourists seeking winter sun, and it’s not unusual to come across people who have holidayed there 15 or 20 times. In 2001, our research showed that the average British holidaymaker there spent more than 25 a day, over a third of it going directly to local people such as guides, craft workers and juice pressers. Tourists are spending millions of pounds every year in The Gambia, purchasing directly from economically poor, but culturally rich, Gambians who provide local colour and local experiences. It is these experiences that bring so many holidaymakers back year after year.

Tourism is neither good nor bad – it’s both. An Asian proverb expresses it well: “Tourism is a like a fire, you can cook your dinner on it, or it can burn your house down.” Everyone involved can make a difference – from tour operators and hoteliers to individual holidaymakers and travellers".

It's worth reading the rest of Harold's article, which is available by clicking the link below:

Click here for Prof Goodwin's full article


Image: Disneyland Ca under forest fire skies

Californian Wildfires: And The Princess Slept On


A photo sent by Dave Machin from a visit to Disneyland in Los Angeles this last weekend. The huge fires in the area have blanketed the skies with smoke. The 'snow' on Sleeping Beauty's Castle is part of the exhibit but fine ash is falling just like snow over the whole scene - not visible in the picture.

Image: Snug Hollow Farm

Old Rice Farm: The Model Of Snug Hollow


Just a few miles away from Victoria and Jay's land in the Red Lick Valley of Kentucky (see the earlier postings) is Snug Hollow. This is described in the States as a B&B accommodation but in the UK it would probably be known as a guest house. Snug Hollow Farm lies in a long valley running back in to the hills, wooded on the steeper slops to either side but with open grazing along the valley bottom where streams drain towards the Red Lick. To get to it means a drive up a twisty, up-and-down tarmac road past some other properties but then beyond a gate across the road the scenery is empty of buildings until Snug Hollow is reached.

The accommodation is run by its owner, Barbara, helped by a local lady and they give visitors a warm welcome to the main house and a 'cabin' below. The house is two storey, timber framed with verandahs offering comfortable seating and views up and down the valley. There is a large dining room - though normally only breakfast is served to guests who, being mainly Americans, are used to driving into Irvine or another nearby town for their other meals. The cabin is also two storey, smaller, but with plenty of bedspaces suitable for families - or small groups happy to share space on the upper floor (pictured) and the ground floor sitting area where there are two single beds. It might sound cramped, but US property allows much more space and timber-frame walls and dividiers help screen off areas a little. There is a homey feeling, rustic, cottagey even, with hand-crafted furnishing and decorations, rocking chairs, sofas, that kind of thing. There is a kitchen so people staying here can cook. The reputation of the Farm has grown. In March '08 the National Geographic Magazine printed a feature on Appalachian tourism with one of the fold out maps so favoured by the magazine. Snug Hollow was one of the few B&Bs in the area to feature. Magazine staff heard about the place, visited, and went away impressed. Word of mouth followed by word of print has pushed up the bookings.

Within this part of Kentucky small tourism projects are becoming more common and the local council - Estill - wants to see more in order to help the economy. Barbara is a well known pioneer, having set up the accommodation with a lot of style and enthusiasm which is infectious. As with most 'grass-roots' enterprises of this kind there is little use of text book theory but a lot of seeking and sharing experience and skills with the neighbours. So Jay and Victoria got to know her well and have taken on board a lot of her approaches - that of working with the people in the community and not against them. A key example of that was the way in which they had a valley man build their first cabin - which will be the subject of the next posting.

Image: Hadrians Villa - Vision Publishing book reviewed

'Hadrian's Villa: Past And Present'


Here's an interesting way of showing in book form how modern archaeological remains relate to the original structures. It's difficult looking at a length of Hadrian's wall or one of the fortresses along it as they are today and appreciating that they would have been impressive defences. The Italian company Vision Roma has produced guide books to the major Roman remains around the nation's capital using acetate overlays alongside the printed page. The effect is that a photo of what we see now, when covered by a transparent page carrying artist-painted 'missing bits' becomes a reasonable representation of what the Romans saw. Vision Roma has also produced rather larger books on Greek subjects to a very high standard.

Image: Magic lantern

Tourist Photography: Magic Lantern


Explorers and travellers always got back home full of stories about the places they had visited and the people they had met. They often brought back souvenirs to show their admiring friends and relatives. Some of them took on an extension of this activity, especially in the nineteenth century, but going the rounds of groups who invited them to give a talk; or else they hired a hall and advertised a lecture as an educational event. When the lantern slide projector was invented an enterprising speaker could have paintings made on the glass slides that were shown large on a screen before the audience. Double projectors (as in the ad for a 'Biunial' projectgor set above) or even triple allowed one slide to be faded out by reducing the illumination while another was faded in. Matching, but slightly different, slides would then give some crude idea of movement or other transformation.

Shown above are examples of lantern slides in the Museum of Technology in Prague, the Biunial projector advert, and a coloured slide showing Madras Railway Station in 1895 (source: Wikipedia). The demand which grew from lecturers would be one of the stimuluses for improvements in photography once the camera had been invented and developed enough for positive images to be made on glass slides. Schools in the 1950s could be found with collections of travel photos on these large glass slides what were only slowly being replaced by film strips. The formal use of travel photography for education was a key development with a far-ranging influence.

Image: Bedford Dormobile 1963 advert

The Bedford Dormobile


A postcard from a brochure in the Robert Opie Collectio (also see www.robertopiecollection.com) brings back memories of the growing prosperity and independence of the fun-filled '60s. Longhaul holidaymakers were travelling more by plane than by liner and at home many were choosing the freedom of a compact home on wheels to the restrictions of the old seaside guest house. This was holidaymaking with a sense of adventure - but with more mod cons like a cooker, seats and table that wouldn't be found in a camping tent.

My own encounter with a Dormobile was slightly earlier when studying geography and geology in school. The subject teacher and his wife used a version of this vehicle and he was generous in taking the small number of boys doing the subject at that level out to see things at first hand. Many a time his sturdy van returned with scruffy pupils loaded with rocks, minerals and fossils from places along the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border. Sometimes Saturdays would be given up by him to get us to Geographical or Geological Association meetings which ranged further afield, though the trust Bedford only acted as the shuttle to deliver us to the coach taking a larger party out for the day. Those were the days before risk assessments began to inflict serious injuries on environmental education. We took such trips rather for granted and probably seldom realised what valuable experiences we were being given. Does it happen that way now?

Image: Coney Island book

Coney Island - Lost and Found


Anyone wanting to know more about theme parks - and funfairs - needs to look at the history of Coney Island. From the late nineteenth century to the present day NewYorkers have been able to enjoy the varied delights of funfairs and theme parks on this narrow stretch of land to the south of Brooklyn on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Coney Island was ideally placed for this kind of development, being close to New York and other cities around it, well served by railways - three in number - and fronting the open sea, as welcome place to escape the sultry city heat of the summer.

Hotels appeared first. These were not always in traditional buildings but sometimes in crazy seaside concoctions such as the giant Elephant Hotel openend in 1884, a symbol in western American culture of having been to the gold fields of California. Later, funfairs were replaced by what we might call theme parks: Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, Dreamland. They were set out with thrilling rides, exhibitions, side shows, theatres and then cinemas. The unusual, the exotic, the innovative were put on show to amaze the crowds. The first baby incubator was demonstrated here when medical menshowed little interest, and it helped to save young lives.

Charles Denson lived on Coney Island and recorded in words and photographs its more recent history including decline and sometimes decay. He also saw efforts to revive some of it come to fruition. His book is one of the best about the Island to be found: well written, highly detailed and beautifully designed and illustrated. Later generations would flock to Disney's Parks: the great pioneering showmen were here on Coney Island.

Denson, Charles (2002) Coney Island: Lost and Found, Berkeley Ca, Ten Speed Press
205mm x 203mm

Image: War Memorials

The Headmaster Wept


At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month ....

In secondary school almost fifty years ago the morning assembly marked armistice day. As usual there was the hymn singing and prayers but on this special day the names were read of the old boys from our school who had died in the two world wars. It was a small school - around 400 boys and at that time an entirely male staff. The second of those world wars had ended only nine years before: memories for our parents and grandparents, and for the teachers, were still fresh and, even in a quiet little town like ours, full of the harsh realities of conflict. We boys had no memories of the actual years, we were far too young. Our memories were full of boyish pursuits in which the war was a source of exciting stories that we could read in our comics and act out in the fields nearby. The thirty-two of us in the class had joined the big school with its teenage brashness. It was a world where boys thought they had a good idea of how they should behave as the kind of men who had fought and won the war.

The names were solemnly read out by the School Captain. And the headmaster, the symbol of authority and power in our masculine world, wept.

Over all the ages from prehistory to the present day, monuments have been erected to mark victories in wars. Who would want to mark defeats? In Rome the Emperor Trajan's victories in the Dacian Wars were marked in 113AD by a 98-feet high stone column bearing a long, spiral narrative in low relief carving which tells the story of the wars. It was placed in the Trajan forum where it could be admired by the people, doubtless inspired to support other wars that might bring them new victories.

In Britain in the North Yorkshire village of Sledmere there is a column with a similar function. It tells how local farmhands left their fields during the first world war to avenge the atrocities that they had been told the nasty Huns had committed against peaceful citizens in places such as Belgium. Graphic carving shows how the local folk saw the enemy, the Germans, in the period after 1918. Doubtless the Sledmere column roused up feelings of patriotic pride and superiority over that rival imperial power that had committed such acts.

In Coton Military Cemetery near Cambridge there stand the white markers of the graves of thousands of American servicement and women who were killed in the second world war. Behind them is a long stone wall with the names of thousands more inscribed upon it. these were the people whose remains were never found: lost at sea or buried somehow in unmarked resting places. The mood here is not so much of victories gained, though that is the background to the tale, but one of loss, loss in huge numbers, losses which took away from generations of people their loved ones, breadwinners, their hopes for the future. Tourists come here. This is darker tourism. For some the scene evokes optimism that a later set of generations is able to avoid these failures and the terrible carnage that was the result. Modern visitors travel far, see many countries, call in on the very communities with whom our ancestors fought and they see how those people suffered as well. Modern travellers look round the world and see that wars and conflict still go on, taking away those youngsters who learned about the world in school then travelled afar to meet their deaths while still so young.

No wonder the headmaster wept.

Image: Old Rice Farmhouse

Old Rice Farm: A Shaker Property?


Continuing postings about Victoria and Jay Steven's project in Kentucky (see 01.11.08) brings us to the farmhouse which commands the little valley that they bought.

Victoria describes the building: "The house was built in the 1850’s and we think it’s a cedar log structure under the siding [the wooden exterior panelling]. It’s a Shaker design where there are two separate staircases to keep the male and female sleeping quarters separate upstairs. People may not know a whole lot about the Shakers – I think they’re mostly American - but around here Shaker things generate a lot of interest. Eventually, we want to turn the house into a restaurant, capitalizing on the historic roots of the building". Like all old, timber buildings, it needs work doing to it to correct some problems. An interesting point is the namne, which might well be a corruption of 'Rhys', a common Welsh name, there having been many Welsh settlers in the area. By coincidence Victoria is descended partly from a Welshman of that name herself.

Around the farm house is open space. The road serving the valley farms runs past its frontage and across that is the flat floor of the Red Lick valley whose stream flows in to the larger Red River. The country here is less well known than some parts of the Appalachians which means it offers the chance of retreating deep into quiet, attractive mountain scenery and small towns which have not been overcome with the crowds who frequent the Blue Ridge country, the Great Smokeys or places like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. So small, 'grass roots' accommodation and attractions are appearing ... like the one which will be the subject of the next Old Rice Farm posting.

Image: The Camera Obscura

Tourist Photography: The Camera Obscura


Travellers anxious to draw accurate sketches of the places they saw might take with them a 'camera obscura'. The phrase means 'dark chamber' or 'room' and of course the word for chamber would later be used for the photographic device we know. The ancient Chinese and Greeks both knew of the principles: if a dark room can be constructed with a tiny hole in an outside wall, then in daylight an inverted image of the outside view will be projected through the hole onto the wall opposite. The interior wall is best painted white. If the wall were to be replaced by a translucent screen then the image can be viewed from its other side. So the early experimenters found they could make a wooden box with a pinhole at one end and a screen at the other, and see from the outside an inverted image on the screen. If a mirror could be angled inside then the image could be shown right way up through a translucent screen placed in the top of the box. An artist could place thin paper over it and trace the image, using the result as the basis for a better-drawn sketch or painting. The next step, to a device which could record and preserve the image accurately by photo-chemical means was only a short distance away.

The illustrations a camera obscura in the form of a hut in the grounds of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; diagrams of devices for producing camera obscura images; the principles of an artist's camera obscura; and a modern artist's version made by a company in the United States (see the link below). First three images are from the Wikipedia article on the camera obscura.

Click here to see the Camera Obscura/Lucida Shop catalogue


Image: Image versus Reality

Image Versus Reality - USA


In some ways the battle in the US Presidential election was not between McCain and Obama but between Obama and Palin. Palin lost that fight so millions of observers around the globe breathed again. The Palin that lost was the icon of ignorance, the pitprop of prejudice.

Viewers of America who are oceans apart from that country must rely on TV, newspapers, radio and the internet for all that they see and hear day by day about the place and its people. New perceptions get stored and compared with earlier media messages. Opinions are shaped and moulded. We can access vast acreages of information, far more than ever before, and might feel we are better informed. The problem is, what we are really doing is devouring a diet devised by someone else - politicians, advertisers, journalists, friends and relatives maybe, but always someone else.

So being at the receiving end of this flow of information we are having to struggle sorting out the significant from the unimportant using only the material doled out to us. As it has been cooked up by moneymakers and propagandists to a large degree we are left with a knowledge of the United States (and anywhere else distant from our shores) based too often on what is sensational, extreme or just plain exotic.

If we can only take hold of the American reality through the reports of political shenanigans then thank goodness that it was not the Palinite view of the world that won. Her policies of sucking out of the world everything that could be used to produce material prosperity would have drained it of human value within a very short space of time. Her ignorance of continents and countries was bad, but her ignorance of even what her own country's government policies had been been was a frightening prospect for someone only that famous 'heart beat away from the presidency'. Worse still, the limited knowledge of the USA that most non-American people enjoy would have stayed limited to one of fear and loathing. Obama's victory at least opens up the hope of better understanding, but it might take time to develop and could be cut short by political error or terrorist action all too easily first.

It has been that other Palin, Michael - the ex-Python and man-on-the-road explorer - who has helped show through TV documentaries that it is much easier now to travel the globe and find out for oneself what places are like. Most places are interesting. Most people are hospitable. Most travelling problems can, in fact, be overcome without shouting and with a few simple precautions won't end up in a ditch or a morgue. The real way to discover the real America is therefore to start with Obama's vision of a unified global community and to meet the real people who make it up in the real places they they inhabit, and to push the images from the media dramas into perspective: go and see for yourselves.

Another Advantage Of Placement!


Leeds Met Alumni Tom Pleass recalls in a Facebook message that he did his course placement at the East Bank Club in Chicago. While Tom was at the club he met the junior Senatoir for Illinois, one Barack Obama. See - another reason for doing a placement - you never know who you're going to meet!

Image: Martin Mere

Tourism With A Message - Martin Mere


Another attraction which has a story to tell is that at Martin Mere in Lancashire. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust runs the centre as one of a set which began with the creation of Slimbridge Wildfowl Centre in Gloucestershire in the 1950s. Sir Peter Scott was the famous ornithologist and painter who was its founder. Martin Mere, like Slimbridge and the others, has an important educational aim along with an objective of being entertaining in how it works. Conservation of water birds and their habitats is central to its message, and the tourist public is the audience. It is another of the pioneers with a mission to perform.





Image: Presidential legacies

What Will The Next President Leave To Heritage Tourism?


Today's US election voting will add to the tourism landscape as well as having a million other (more immediately important) effects. Whether it's McCain or Obama, and I haven't met or heard from anyone on this side of the pond who wants John McCain, there will be some new places to add for interested visitors to see in the distant future. The first American president, George Washington, lived at Mount Vernon outside the city which would bear his name and be the federal capital of his country - picture on the left above. Abraham Lincoln left his boyhood log cabin behind when he set out to be a lawyer and then national leader - right, above - and there is only a reconstruction in the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, which in 2007 welcomed it's millionth visitor. Ronald Reagan, like a dozen other more modern presidents, is commemorated in a library, his being in Simi Valley, California, where it is open to the public who can also see a museum dedicated to him. Jimmy Carter has a library, conference and business centre (with nice restaurant) named after him in Atlanta, Georgia, but he has a far greater legacy in his cintributory work for Habitat for Humanity, a charitable house-building scheme operating worldwide. He and his wife joined it on his stepping down from the presidency and they carry out work each year for the organisation.

What will we see out of the next presidency? Certainly a library, maybe a tourist attraction or two? More visitors going to McCain's homes .. that's a whole chain of attractions ... Obama's Illinois Church ... will people visit Alaska because of Sarah Palin's publicity for the state (or will they avoid it like the plague?) ....

Image: Plimoth Plantation - Wampanoag people

Tourism With A Message - Plimoth Plantation


On a related web page there is a feature about Plimoth Plantation near Boston, Massachusetts, a reconstruction of the original Mayflower settlers colony.

As part of it there is a small reconstruction of the kind of native village that the settlers would have encountered. The Wampanoag people are not only represented here but actually here in person in the form of twenty-first century descendants of those who the Europeans met almost four centuries earlier. Visitors approach along a footpath from the entrance to be met with the information panel shown above. It is the first statement in the museum's communication about North American native culture, so long depicted in a narrow, misleading way by the novels, plays, films and TV series of the white North Americans. It suggests the better way of addressing the museum staff who are from the native culture, and it leads into the encounter between the visitor (who, of course, might be from many nations around the world) and the Wampanoag, their village life and times. Staff drawn from the native group talk with visitors, answer questions, describe the lifestyle of the people of the 1620s. It's a positive example of how tourism can be used to improve cultural understanding: it might not always work, or work well, but it goes some way towards counteracting the stereotypes of other days.

Image: Cesar Manrique projects

Where In The World?: Lanzarote


On first seeing Lanzarote I might have agreed with a colleague who called it 'Lanzagrotty' but given a second visit and time to explore I found it quite different. At least, by moving away from the resorts clinging to parts of the coast.

This Canary Islands jewel might have become a bit encrusted round the edges with resorts which could be anywhere on earth, but inland it's much more interesting. Driving up into the interior mountains there are good views back down the coast to the lines of high rise ... er, wait a minute, there aren't many high rise hotels or other buildings at all. The reason is largely due to the efforts of an islander named Cesar Manrique, a remarkable architect, artist and town planner. In the post-world war II period Manrique was creating some outstanding structures of contrasting kinds.

In Timanfaya National Park he designed a restaurant with a barbecue heated by a blast of hot air rushing out of a shaft tapping the heat of the volcanic rocks below. Pictured above left are visitors seeing how brushwood thrown into a shallow hole catches fire. Centre is seen part of his Cactus Garden in a former quarry - dozens of kinds of cacti neatly arranged in concentric circles within a dry ground of lava gravel and soil. At the right, an underground restaurant set in a cliff face where a huge glass window in the actual face itself gives a stunning view high over a small town on another, tiny, island across a narrow channel of the Atlantic. Elsewhere there is an underground house set into natural tunnels and openings in an amazing landscape of solidified lava. The people who go nowhere beyond one of those all-in resorts along the coast are missing the point of Lanzarote - an Atlantic island with a unique set of attractions.

Perhaps they notice there aren't many high-rise buildings. It was thanks to Manrique that the island government introduced planning rules banning them in order to reduce the visual impact of the urban sprawl growing along the coast. And it gives a better view of the rural heart of Lanzarote beyond.

Image: Old Rice Farm owners and crew

Old Rice Farm: Ideas


Small-scale projects like Old Rice Farm gradually evolve. They might be set up as businesses but the priority is often, as in this case, not a way of making big money but to create something which comes from the heart as well as the head. People think about what way of life they want to lead, what kind of world they want to inhabit and what their contribution to it is going to be. Academic text books don't explain how these projects come about because as often as not the ideas whirl around in someone's mind for years, gradually being shaped and tested and turned into a vision well before practical planning and product development take over.

Here's the crew. The family. Jay is an aircraft engineer. He has a daughter already and she is in university. Victoria is a market research analyst. Darvik arrived on the scene late in 2007 so he's still chewing over the ideas that the older generation have ... well, generated. They live in Kentucky.

Now, Kentucky might seem to some folks raised a long way away on a diet of television and country and western music as a hill-billy sort of a place. Well, the Dukes of Hazard might be lurking in the nearby Appalachian foothills but Kentucky is sharp in business, steeped in history and rich in culture. Folks here keep up their traditions, sure: the way they do things is particularly their own. They farm, they tend woodlands, they run industries - and they extend warm hospitality to people who visit.

Victoria and Jay have mostly lived in cities but love the countryside. In America that might mean flat fields of corn or untidy urban margins but it famously also means mountain wildernesses, Joshua-tree deserts, lakelands or forests. Along the southern hill country of Kentucky it means parallel ridge-and-valley country. Rivers and streams - licks - wind through the corrugations of the Daniel Boone National Forest. This is the scenery that met the pioneering Boone after he crossed what is now famed as the Cumberland Gap to open up a route into the mid-westerm plains. It was in this country, after months of searching, that Jay and Victoria found the land on which they could build their dream.

Where In The World? - 2 (see 07.12.08 blog)


The Galapagos
Inca Empire

(The July temperature might be misleading - the August average shoots up to around 21C)

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