Mapping Mementos: Worldwide Souvenirs Brought to Aberdeen 

A new exhibition at the University of Aberdeen examines the stories behind souvenirs, asking why we collect them and what impact they have on the makers and the planet.

banner header from Mapping Mementos with the spire of Aberdeen University on one side and an illustration of a postage stamp with an image of a travel souvenir on the other

Mapping Mementos: Worldwide Souvenirs Brought to Aberdeen showcases artefacts from the University’s collections and has been curated by students of the MLitt Museum Studies programme.

The exhibition is on the University website with a selection of objects also on display in the Sir Duncan Rice Library in Old Aberdeen from 16 August. 

The student curators worked on all aspects of the exhibition, from research to marketing, with assistance from the staff of the University’s Museum and Special Collections team. The exhibition explores the meaning of souvenirs, asking why we choose certain objects to take home, as well as finding out about the producers and what the tourist market means to them.

Students are showcasing historic items brought to Aberdeen, including bread preserved during the Siege of Paris in 1870, a silver crown from Chile and even a nineteenth century Thomas Cook trip itinerary from New Zealand.

Going beyond the University collections, the student curators have been looking at their own souvenirs that they brought to Aberdeen. To make the exhibition more personal they shared gifts, family heirlooms and tokens from trips abroad. Using these they made a Curators’ Corner to tell their own stories and reflect on contemporary souvenir collecting.

Lauren Arcangeli, one of the student curators, said:

“Incorporating our own souvenirs has been an exciting part of creating this exhibition. In a lot of ways, our own objects reflect similar meanings to those in the collection. With Curators’ Corner we’re able to show a greater variety of souvenirs.” 

The student curatorial team also created something a little extra for the exhibition. They want to take visitors around Old Aberdeen campus to see other notable objects in the museum collections by following clues they have written. With this they aim to have an activity that replicates the fun of travel and discovering unique keepsakes. This trail can be accessed at the end of the online exhibition and is available to pick up around campus.

Student Curator Charlotte Pierce added:

“I have loved the way that researching collected items for this exhibition has allowed us to find the voices behind otherwise seemingly silent objects. I have realised through this process that a souvenir is never just a souvenir; it carries a story that can mark a historic moment, showcase or unravel local traditions, have serious ramifications for people and the environment and, importantly, feel deeply significant to the person who collects or keeps it.

“Designing this exhibition has given me a newfound sense of awe at the true impact, value and meaning that even the most seemingly mundane items can have in our lives.” 

Mapping Mementos: Worldwide Souvenirs Brought to Aberdeen can be viewed here 

Curated by MLitt Museum Studies students: Lauren Arcangeli, Caeley Currie, Grace McAdam, Charlotte Pierce, Sara Pope, and Mary Simmons.

From 16 August, a selection of objects can be viewed next to the cafe on the ground floor of the Sir Duncan Rice Library, open weekdays 8:30am – 8pm, Saturday 9am – 5pm and Sunday 1pm – 5pm.

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