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Switzerland has been a popular destination for as long as there have been travellers, and certain regions of what is now Switzerland began planning for visitors from near and far as much as two centuries ago. Just what is it that makes the place so appealing? Travel writers from a range of cultures and periods have bequeathed to us a whole series of images, familiar and unfamiliar, of Switzerland as object of the tourist’s desire; and these images – whether from Baedeker, Guide Michelin or Lonely Planet – are to be shown in the exhibition "Swiss Appeal" at the Swiss National Library.
Travel guides must meet specific criteria, in terms of both form and content. Considered as objects, they must be easy to handle, light, robust and weatherproof. As conveyors of knowledge, meanwhile, they have a precise mandate: to offer travellers the concise and practical information they want, and to do so in a properly structured manner. After all, the average tourist has a circumscribed amount of time, and must therefore make the most of it. As a type of "literature", travel guides are sui generis, foregrounding practical know-how as they do.
Furthermore, among its enormous offerings the genre boasts a wealth of specialized sub-categories, which in turn contain a wide range of “insider” tips in their bid to keep readers far from the madding crowd of fellow travellers. Hence their quest for out-of-the-way picnic grounds, secluded beaches, forgotten crossroads, glamorous emporia and eccentric hotels, all passed on in the form of recommendations.
For their part, posters aimed at the tourist segment have perennially drummed up business: enchanting Swiss landscapes fire the potential visitor’s imagination, while postcard depictions of landmarks provide travellers en route with proof of their peregrinations for consumption by those left at home – “I was there!” All documents on display – travel guides, posters and postcards – are drawn from the Swiss National Library’s opulent collection, maintained as part of its mandate to collect everything published on the topic of Switzerland worldwide.
The exhibition will open on 11 March 2010 at 6 pm in the Swiss National Library in Bern, and will be on display from 12 March to 27 June 2010. Parallel events and public guided tours are also planned.
Swiss Appeal: Switzerland in Travel Guides
Vernissage: Thursday, 11 March 2010 at 6 pm in the Swiss National Library, Bern
On show: from 12 March to 27 June 2010
Further information for the media
Press conference: Tuesday, 9 March 2010 at 10.30 am in the Swiss National Library, Bern
Complete press documentation available online as of 9 March 2010 at 10.30 am (www.nb.admin.ch/pressroom).