Photograph of Lillian Schoedler, Angkor Wat, French Indochina (Cambodia), early 1929. From the Lillian Schoedler Papers.
October 2, 2009 to February 26, 2010

The exhibition opens on Friday, October 2, 2009, and runs through Friday, February 26, 2010, and will be on view in the Schlesinger Library’s first floor exhibition area during regular library hours: Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“I still have managed to know the whole world as few people of any kind have had the chance to know it. . . . No magic formula has made this possible—simply the idea that we have just one chance at it and that chance must be taken while the taking is there.”

Lillian Schoedler Papers

Recognizing a growing demand for sources for the study of travel and life writing, Adam Matthew Digital and the Schlesinger Library have collaborated to digitize a selection of the library’s travel diaries and correspondence. These digitized sources will be published in Travel Writing, Spectacle and World History, a new online resource available to students and scholars. This exhibition highlights just a few of the many travel diaries and related correspondence, selected from over 50 of the library’s collections, that were included in the project.  

The sources document women as they progress through time and space, from the United States to Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and Africa. They travel by foot, ship, covered wagon, car, and plane. They are keen observers and recorders, using pen, camera, and brush. Diverse in their motivations, their socioeconomic backgrounds, and their relationships, the women travel alone, with family, or with friends. 

The travel diaries and letters in this collection offer commentary on topics such as frontier life in America, missionary work, historic world events, and local customs. The writers compare themselves to the women in the places they visit, speculate on what they are missing at home, and reflect on finding themselves, sometimes for the first time, in the public arena. The writings provide snapshots of cities, impressions of cultures and customs, and personal reactions to events of the time. Collectively, the documents chart the rise of modern tourism and the travel industry in the 19th and 20th centuries.

For most, travel was not the center of their lives, but each was transformed by travel. The records they created were intended for themselves alone or for family and friends. They could not have anticipated the interest their thoughts and impressions would generate, or the unprecedented access to them made possible by the creation of this online collection.