Volume II – No. 2 – September 2005
Our third international conference is nearing fast and the programme York’s local organizer Colin Divall and his team have put together with your help is quite impressive. A surprisingly high number of tourism historians, hitherto not included in our membership, have responded to our call to contribute to our special theme chosen for this edition of our annual meet.
This is all the more encouraging as our discussions in Paris, last April, with the group of tourism historians gathered in the International Committee for the History of Tourism and Travel (ICHTT) have resulted in a clearer picture of possible future co-operation than was the case at the time of our Dearborn conference. Both parties agreed not to reconvene in Paris in June, but to use our York meeting to have a discussion with all participants during a special Round Table session on the issues that separate us and, especially, the issues that bring us together. At the same time, the annual Executive Committee (EC) meeting right before the start of the conference will enable us to identify the practical possibilities and obstacles on the road to future cooperation. To name only a few areas of potential co-operation: we have a unique scholarly journal to offer; while the other party can boast of a fully functioning listserve called H Travel. The decision to ‘taste each others kidneys’ more carefully, as we say in the Netherlands, is the result of a debate within the EC, where some members cautioned not to rush to expansion but first assess our situation against the background of a general plan which also covers other potential member groups. The reason for this is, of course, the integrity of T2M, both as an association an as a scholarly field.
Member surveys at previous conferences and an ongoing debate within the EC have led to the identification of three promising fields for further expansion. In Dearborn, we already addressed the urban planning community, especially from the United States. Several of them have become members by now, and it is our intention to address the European part of this group again during our next year’s conference. This year, we address our friends in the tourism history field and the fifth edition of our conference in 2007 will probably be focused upon the third main group of museum curators and archivists.
Expansion towards these three adjacent fields, beyond the borders of the traditional group of transport historians and the new group of mobility historians (with our current hundred or so members we cover, according to my personal estimates, about one third of our potential strength in this realm) may cause tensions within our membership, tensions of a scholarly nature. Planners obviously are not used to treating historical processes of mobility in the same way as historians do. Their attitude toward history is more instrumental, aimed at supporting a non-historical thesis, and their historical work is often characterized by a reinterpretation of existing historical scholarship, rather than contributing to the historical craft by going deeply into new primary sources. How are we, as a scholarly community, going to deal with this? Are we going to be orthodox and simply state that as long as it is not ‘good history,’ presentations by planners do not have a place at our conferences (and in our journal)? Or are we going to try to find a middle ground, where research questions emanating from current mobility policy should enrich our historical research, as much as our historical expertise could enrich the current policy debates?
Likewise, expansion to the museum and archivists’ world reemphasizes material culture in our field, which has been slowly drifting away from materiality and infrastructures. Tourism history, on the other hand, emphasizes this ‘cultural turn’ and threatens to downplay the importance of the history of technology and maybe even economic history, elements which cannot be neglected in the history of transport and mobility. To my mind, we, as an emerging community, should have an ongoing, open debate about these issues and hopefully formulate a kind of T2M policy enabling us to take the future of our field in our own hands. This is not only important for the future of our Association, but also for much further reaching issues, such as the success of future research projects and maybe even the establishment of chairs in the history of mobility, travel and tourism.
That is why young scholars should have such a prominent role in our association. I am looking forward to the start of this debate in York, and, on behalf of all members, would like to welcome all tourism historians who have decided to join us in this endeavour. In particular, I would like to welcome Professor Claudio Visentin and part of his team of coordinators of ICHTT.