The Polytechnic Touring Association seminar, Nov 13

Wednesday 13th November, 5.30pm
Room 106, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW

Sara Dominici, University of Westminster
“The Polytechnic Touring Association: from culture as education to culture as leisure (1888-1939)”

This paper looks at how the idea of culture promoted by the Polytechnic Touring Association (PTA) changed in the period from 1888, the year subsequently celebrated as the origin of the PTA, and the end of the interwar period. During this timeframe the organisation of the tours shifted from endorsing the Polytechnic’s philanthropic approach, to responding to a commercial context. In 1911 the travel firm had become a separate business. This influenced the PTA’s approach to the tourists, which from individuals to instruct became customers to please and, in turn, the understanding of what would make cultural travel an improving experience. The early excursions were described as ‘educational holiday tours’, thus emphasising travel as an organised form of learning; by the 1930s, these were promoted as ‘holidays to the loveliest places in Europe’, suggesting instead a more ‘relaxed’ approach to the encounter with cultural sites. This paper discusses this passage by considering how the transformation of culture into a product of consumption influenced its commercialisation. Specifically, it evaluates what was understood to be ‘educational’ in the experience of travel offered by the PTA, as the organisation transitioned from providing a learning experience to a service.

Sara is a PhD student affiliated to the IMCC, currently completing her doctoral thesis on the PTA.

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