Souvenirs served to connect tourists to the past, fabled destinations and spiritual encounters – even when back home …
Collecting objects while travelling became increasingly popular from the 18th century onwards, not only among the elite now, but also the emerging middle classes of Europe and – to a lesser extent – among Arab and Ottoman travellers. With the increased influx of a wide range of European travellers and – eventually – sight-seeing tourists to the Middle East, the urge to collect souvenirs took on new dimensions. Whether eager to physically connect with the past, hold on to the magic of a fabled destination, partake of a site’s spiritual blessing, prove one’s “having been there” to friends and family back home, or all of the above, travellers went to all lengths to collect, purchase, or obtain by other means – legal or otherwise – significant objects along the way. Local dealers in antiquities and art readily catered for the wealthy, while makers of trinkets and reproductions scrambled to attract those of lesser means. Photos and postcards, perhaps, were the most widely distributed type of souvenir at the time. Meanwhile, a variety of souvenirs were made exclusively to commemorate an important visit or event.
Mummy board and inner coffin for Nes-pauti-taui

21st Dyn, c. 1000 BC; excavated in 1891

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Egyptian Collection, Vienna, Austria

Wool covered with linen cartonnage; painted, vanished

Early tourists were fascinated by ancient Egypt and went to all lengths to take home something of what remained of its fabled civilisation, including entire mummies! Indeed, eventually, there was such demand that locals started to make fake mummies in order to meet it.

See Database entry for this item


In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
Royal and diplomatic visits
Religious tourism and pilgrimage
Exploration and research
Visiting and “revisiting” the Orient