Learning about History, Culture and Art might bring flashbacks of high school drudgery. However the truth is, we are participating in history and culture everyday of our lives. History, culture and art surrounds us in our food, fashion, entertainment, and all daily human interactions. Each of us has a personal heritage rich with history and culture. Discovering our own heritage improves our self-awareness and capacity for empathy.
It is easy to be immersed in our own history and culture. However, there is also extraordinary value to be found in the history, culture and art of others. Studying diverse histories and cultures helps us move away from ethnocentricity and toward a spirit of open-mindedness and impartiality.
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While history, culture and art are inextricably intertwined, for the sake of this explanation, we will look at the concepts of history, culture and art individually. This will give us a chance to drill down further.
Let’s start with History and some definitions.
My father was a teacher and historian. He loved the stories behind all the dry dates and fact. As I grew up, I learned that travel and history were intricately intertwined.
Every town, region or country proudly preserves its historic sites. If you are willing to do a little digging, you can uncover nuggets of history on a trip across town or across the world. Merriam Webster gives us this definition of History:
…past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events
Travel with an historical focus can take on limitless options. History can range from ancient peoples to contemporary leaders. It can include battlefields, homesteads, pueblos or gardens. Historical sites look like museums, trails, junkyards or working farms. When we Go! Learn Things about history we discover people, places, vehicles, foods, toys…the list goes on. This list is a perfect segway into Culture…
As we mentioned before, history and culture are inextricable. How are we going to explore these concepts apart from each other? Technically, we won’t really be able to separate them. But, there are those among us who are drawn to the arts, foods, fashions, or music but don’t consider it “history”. We can respect that, and we want to find something for everyone to learn. Go! Learn Things will explore visual art, literature, performing arts, street art, architecture, food and fashion. Because these topics can seem very contemporary, they are not always defined with history and culture. Merriam Webster gives us this definition for Culture:
…the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.
You can see from this definition that “Culture” can be ancient, historical and/or contemporary. It cannot be separated from what we define as heritage. Our heritage, aka History and Culture, defines who we are as humans. It reflects how we interact with each other and our environment. It defines how we have evolved in the past, and the directions we will take in the future.
Where will we Go! to Learn Things about History, Culture and Art?
Without a doubt, investing time and effort into historical and cultural sites will deepen your travel experiences. Where do we find these destinations? Honestly, they are everywhere you look. History, culture and art are the hallmarks of our shared human experiences. We are surrounded by opportunities.
Museums offer a diverse collection of history, culture and art. They can include vast Art Institutes, Presidential Libraries and small intimate local Historical Societies. You choose a topic and there is a museum to tickle your fancy. If you are looking for a way to travel and learn from museums, check out this post for ideas…Travel Themes: Museums
National Parks and Historic Sites
At first glance you would expect National Parks to fall under the Nature category rather than History and Culture. However, the National Park Service maintains a wide variety of historic properties and learning opportunities.
National Park Service
We are proud that tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individual citizens ask for our help in revitalizing their communities, preserving local history, celebrating local heritage, and creating close to home opportunities for kids and families to get outside, be active, and have fun.
That is quite an all encompassing mission statement. The National Park Service covers 85 million acres over 418 sites. They include 129 historic parks and sites, 25 battlefields, 60 national parks and 88 national monuments. That involves some serious American history and culture. Check out the post below for some amazing National Historic Sites preserving the Ancient Hohokam culture in Arizona.
Highways, Byways and Trails
“We’re on the road again”…
Who doesn’t love a road trip? The National Scenic Byways program is under the auspices of the US Department of Transportation. These designated byways are recognized for their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic significance . Their purpose is to promote tourism and to preserve and protect these important but often less-traveled roads. Route 66 is an iconic example. The history and culture along this route is rich and quirky.
” Move em’ on, Head em’ up…Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, RAWHIDE!”
Another interesting way to add history to your travel plans is to follow one of the pioneer trails across America. During the Westward Expansion, and prior to the railroads, there were several routes taking homesteaders, traders, and all-around rolling stones to the frontier. This past fall we followed the Old Santa Fe Trail from Independence, MO to Santa Fe, NM. This was a road trip packed with history and culture. Check out the highlights…
Use your feet…
Sometimes the history and culture can be found on a walking or hiking path. The Freedom Trail in Boston allows you to follow the footsteps of American Founding Fathers.
Freedom Trail is a 2.5 miles of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution.
In Western Michigan we found the Michigan Legacy Art Trail. This beautiful hike, through Michigan forestland, showcases art pieces that communicate something about the heritage of Michigan. The curators claim this is: “Where Art Nature and History Meet”.
Border to Border
The next route on our agenda is US Hwy 89, running north and south from the Mexico border to the Canadian border. This Scenic Byway passes 7 National Parks, 14 National Monuments and 3 Heritage Sites. You will travel through Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arizona. This route transverses some of the most spectacular scenery of the Western United States. The learning opportunities include; history and culture of Native Americans, Spanish explorers, mountain men, Mormon pioneers, prospectors and cowboys.
Phew! Let’s Go! Learn Things on this route.
Home Sweet Home
My father the historian instilled in me a love for touring historic homes. There is so much history and culture to be absorbed. Often these homes represent significant local events and personages. Local historical societies or national parks have lovingly and authentically restored these buildings.
These homes help us imagine life as pioneers in a home with a dirt floor and drafty log walls. They teach us local history. Some are essentially museums packed with art, artifacts and antiquities.
Cities and large urban settings are typically full of museums and cultural opportunities. The cheek-by-jowl buildings and skyscrapers in a large metropolis are rich resources for history and culture. Architecture is often overlooked as an art form. Take an architectural tour the next time you visit your favorite city.
The contemporary art form of muralists is rapidly spreading through cities around the world. Street art is an edgy form of recording history and culture.
Living History venues are a wonderfully fun way to learn history and culture. The fun is not for families and children either. Watching artisans demonstrate historic crafts and smelling the fire smoke makes the experiences very real. The re-enactors are well versed in their respective time periods. Living history settings can be farms, villages, forts or battlefields.
Are You Ready to Go! Learn Things about History Culture and Art?
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the history, culture and art you can learn from travels. Stay tuned as we are constantly adding ideas. Sign up for our Newsletter and follow us on Social Media