Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To Bennington & Back Again

In anticipation of my thesis project, I've been taking pictures of tourist centers, collecting brochures, noting word uses in travel articles, and gathering other bits of information here and there, over time and while in the middle of vacations, family excursions, day trips, and other situations that take me to any place remotely touristy. This has been going on for a few years, actually - before I was even certain I'd be working towards an M.A.

Late last Monday, I got back from Bennington, Vermont, where I did very little of all that. I was visiting to attend my sister’s graduation at Bennington College, and when we weren’t attending graduation-related events, we were mostly packing or killing time in-between.

The last time I visited (about two years ago), we spent a little time in traveling. In two days, we visited Hildene (President Lincoln’s son’s home in Manchester), Boston, and Salem. We also went out of our way to find a small cheese shop, which required driving on a dirt road for almost an hour to find an almost microscopic town (we got there ten minutes before closing). We explored Boston by foot, at night; and Salem was an illuminating encounter – never before had Halloween seemed to extend past October so successfully. Our experiences ranged from historic to whimsical and cheesy. At the time of my visit, I was part of an Anthropology seminar on Witchcraft, and I used my time in Salem to talk to a couple shopkeepers in a pagan shop. When I returned, I had a little more information to add to a paper I was working on, and I also used some photos from the day to present to the class, showing how Salem uses its history and pop-cultural status to create an identity that is presented to visitors. (Perhaps I'll share those photos, later.)

During my visit, and while I was compiling the photos for class, I started to seriously consider how this sort of identity formation in places could contribute to my future research.

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Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say for now. Between the previous paragraph and this one, I drove to LAX and back, and now it’s late and I’m too tired to go on, so I’ll leave it at that. More on those points later.

(For now, here’s a picture I took looking down from the top of the Bennington Battle Monument, which rather looks like a miniature scene. After that: an actual miniature scene, from a display case on the first floor of the Monument.)

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