You’re in New York on vacation and have just come out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (left) or Bergdorf’s, FAO Schwartz, or the Apple Store (above).* All along the sidewalk are vendors vying for your souvenir business, most of them selling images of various kinds.
Unlike traditional souvenirs, however, very few of these pictures portray famous things tourists might actually see in New York: the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, Starry Night, the Unicorn tapestries, Central Park buggy rides, the Brooklyn Bridge. Most represent instead symbols associated with the glamorous idea of New York. Audrey Hepburn is far more popular than the Statue of Liberty, sketches of shoes more common than skyscrapers. There are no famous paintings, only vintage Vogue covers. These souvenirs don’t capture memories. They remind tourists of why they first dreamed of going to New York.
Is this phenomenon unique to New York, or have you seen it in other cities as well? What sort of souvenirs do you bring back from your travels?
*If the photos are stacked on top of each other, enlarge your window.
Posted by Virginia Postrel on November 02, 2009 in