August 28, 2008

Thomas Cook Archives

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Perhaps it's the dismal British weather making everyone long for far-off places, but there seems to have been a lot of travel news and events this last week or so! (I have yet to write about the exhibition I went to at the weekend too). I read this story a couple of weeks ago in the Times but have just been reminded of it online: in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Thomas Cook are opening up the company archives, offering free appointment-only tours of the collections to researchers. Thomas Cook's organised tours began in 1841, with an excursion on the railway from Leicester to Loughborough for around 500 people; the first continental tour took place in 1855. Cook played a significant part in effecting the nineteenth century shift from a notion of "travel" as an exclusive, independent pursuit to "tourism" as a mass enterprise that made travel available to many more people. Cook not only recognised the possibilities offered by transport developments like the railways, but was also instrumental in facilitating the evolution and integration of the various institutions involved in travel, establishing a network of systems to become the "leisure industry" that made tourism possible on increasingly greater scales. The archives look fascinating- guidebooks and brochures, diaries of travellers, railway timetables, films and photographs, and copies of the company's newspaper that began in 1851.

Now to find a piece of research that will take me there...

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