Souvenirs: how they may be or may not be understood

Hitchcock, Michael. 2021. Souvenirs: how they may be or may not be understood. Finnish Journal of Tourism, 17(2), pp. 15-21. ISSN 2490-2039 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary of Historical Principles (1973), the word ‘souvenir’ entered the English language in 1775 from French and means ‘memory’ with the associated meanings of ‘keepsake’ and a token of remembrance (1778). English and French are by no means the only languages that have tried to define this area of as memorabilia also exists in English as a Latin import associated with objects valued for their memories and historical interest, which can applied in the professional field to a company or brand. This connection with memory can be illustrated by reference to van Eyck’s portrait painting of 1432, in which large capitals are depicted, apparently carved on to stone, with the words LEAL SOVVENIR (loyal remembrance in French) (National Gallery, London). At the top of the painting is small inscription in Latin characters bearing the Greek words: TUM OTHEOS (then God). The meaning of the painting is unclear and it has been speculated that the portrait was painted after the sitter’s death and that the crumbling parapet bearing the title might be an illusion to man’s mortality (ibid.). The point illustrated here that needs to be made at the outset is that the term ‘souvenir’ is not invariably associated with tourism.

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This paper is based on a keynote lecture given by Michael Hitchcock, Emeritus Professor, Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom at the Souvenirs 2021 conference.


Souvenirs, Tourism, History, Etymology, Crafts

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


28 February 2022Published Online

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19 Sep 2023 09:03

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20 Sep 2023 08:09

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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