Rebuilding European Tourism: Travel Posters and the World Wars (Fall 2020)

Rebuilding European Tourism

Prior to World War I (1914-1918), tourism brought much notoriety and prosperity to European cities and towns. Europe was left in shambles after the war and faced an uphill battle of rebuilding. Promoting travel to foreigners during the 1930s helped bring about a return to the hustle and bustle of life. At the heart of such activities was the production and distribution of travel posters.

Much of this work, however, was undone as a result of World War II. Europe was once again in a position of rebuilding. Efforts to reinvigorate tourism called forth new imagery for the production of travel posters. Artists were employed to create eye-catching designs for posters that would be distributed around the world.

More than half of the posters in the collection, donated by Elma Prat, date to the interwar period (between WWI and WWII). Although the images were created by fine and commercial artists, travel posters were not considered works of art. They served as utilitarian items to be displayed in public spaces, in travel agencies, train stations, and other venues specializing in tourism. As a result, most of the posters show significant signs of wear and tear, and denote the prolific use on a grand scale.

Opens Sep 21*-Dec 12, 2020


Related Programming

NOTE: Fall 2020 Exhibition Programs are all virtual - visit events on the home page to register.



Communicating Tourism
Following Devastation
Jason Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions
TUE, NOV 11 | 7 PM [Virtual]

As a result of the two world wars, European countries were left with the uphill battle of rebuilding. Tourism played a key role in reinvigorating such growth, and at the heart of efforts was the production and distribution of engaging travel posters. Artistic and utilitarian, posters highlighted European history and culture while promoting popular tourist destinations to foreigners. Come explore the evolution of these travel posters and what they reveal about tourism in a new age.

Standing up for Freedom: When Hate was in Vogue
Rodney Coates, Professor
Global & Intercultural Studies
MON, NOV 16 | 3 PM [Virtual]

Eighty four years ago, 18 African American athletes took on Hitler and Nazi Germany in the 1936 Berkun Olympic Games. Their triumph, led by track star Jesse Owens’ winning four gold medals, silenced the racist science that proclaimed Ayrians supreme. Our world never shined so brightly as it did that day when they stood tall to receive their medals and Hitler left the stadium in rage.



All Programs are FREE and held online.