Traveler’s Antiquity Collection at Oviatt celebrates travel literature

Cindy Von Quednow

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Aside from being famous authors in their respective fields and times, Charles Dickens and Herodotus had one thing in common: their love for travel. Dickens wrote about his time in Italy, and Herodotus recounted the Greek and Persian Wars while traveling through the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Their travel writings are currently on display in a new exhibit entitled, “Wish You Were Here: Travels from antiquity to modern times,” at the C.K. and Teresa Tseng Gallery in the Oviatt Library.

“Wish you Were Here,” takes visitors to various far-away lands, from Mexico to Timbuktu, without ever leaving Northridge. Like the title of the exhibit implies, it is like walking through a virtual postcard sent from a privileged friend or family member on a trip around the world. As the subtitle implies, it is also a trip through Ancient Greece and Rome, the Middle ages, up to the 20th century. With the help of many travel books, brochures and tourist guides, one experiences a sense of escapism from mundane school life.

Visitors get to travel back in time, literally, through the history of transportation, starting with steamships and ocean liners, to trains and motor vehicles. Each of these new means of travel is accompanied with colorful posters, schedules, and facts about their rise to popularity. To demonstrate railroads there is a 1951 Santa Fe Rails model train, and to show the advent of automobiles, facts about historical Route 66 are presented.

Also on display are books authored by travelers originating from different regions of the world, like Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and America. These allow us to see the state of the world during a particular time. One book that is on display is that of Peruvian feminist, Flora Tristan, who describes scenes from the civil war in her home country.

Through these books, we get to peek into places and times of many different continents, countries and states of the world, including the one we reside in.

The Golden State is also honored in this exhibit. Tourism to California increased after the Transatlantic Railroad and motorcars were underway in the late 1800s and early 1900s, making cross-country and even international travel possible. This is made evident through various books and personal journals of people who took these long trips; one describes a trip from Liverpool to San Francisco.

California was known as a large tourist location for its health spas, gaming and hunting opportunities. Popular destinations included San Luis Obispo for its hot springs, Arrowhead Springs, and Yosemite National Park. Included in the California section are hunting books, road and travel guides and even a menu from a local restaurant from a popular camp in Yosemite. These examples of what we have in our own back yard might encourage us to get out of the big city and venture out to the beautiful natural treasures our state and others have to offer.

“Wish You Were Here,” lets us see the evolutionary process of transportation and how it made travel much easier, bringing societies that were once so far way, close and reachable.

Although the exhibit is small, due to the space it is in, it is telling of the ways travel facilitated expansion and connecting distinct worlds. It gives us a brief, yet limited history of travel and expansion. One thing that this exhibit is missing is the negative effects of expansion. There is no mention of how the construction of the railways in the Southwest displaced Native Americans, and essentially killed off the buffalo population. This can be the focus of a later exhibit.

Regardless, this impressive and worthwhile collection is sponsored by the Friends of the Library as well as Gus and Erika Manders and will be running at the gallery until Aug. 1.