Postgraduate Research (Souvenirs of the 18th Century British Grand Tour, Emma Gleadhill)

Reprinted from Andrew Wilton, and Ilaria Bignamini, Grand Tour : The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996), 261.

My PhD project examines and compares interpretations of souvenirs by several eighteenth century British Grand Tourists. The tangible presence of a souvenir has commonly been used to trace and preserve the ephemeral experiences of the traveller. Following their return home travellers have frequently employed souvenirs to bring their foreign experiences into the present through the narratives they require. In providing their souvenirs with narratives travellers authenticate both the souvenirs themselves and the destinations to which they are connected. This mediation and preservation of memory through souvenirs then structures the travel experiences of others. Thus, souvenirs have played a vital role in shaping the importance and character of key tourist sites. Eighteenth century British Grand Tourists also utilised souvenirs as self fashioning devices that gestured beyond their immediate households, towards political and imperial inheritances, links to the classical past and an exclusive first-hand understanding of foreign cultures. This project will demonstrate how Grand Tourists from different social backgrounds with diverse travel experiences used souvenirs to define their lives and situate themselves within British society and in turn how souvenirs shaped the British travel experience.