Thursday, August 12, 2010

A New Brand of City Sightseeing Tours

“Streetmuseum” is the most creatively neoteric feature released by the Museum of London to date. No, it isn’t a newly opened thematic section where an extensive photo archive of the streets of London is exhibited; but yes, it is indeed a spectacular showcase of the streets of London as it was before. It is a downloadable iPhone application, which is destined to refashion the way city sightseeing tours are done; it can soon send London’s iconic red open-deck coaches into the recesses of a museum.

This application can’t be any easier to use. With iPhone in hand, you can: “Select a destination from our London map or use your GPS to locate an image near you. Hold your camera up to the present day street scene and see the same London location appear [as it was then] on your screen, offering you a window through time. Want to know more? Simply tap the information button for historical facts.” (For a demo, see: Museum of London – Street Museum.

With “Streetmuseum”, you can happily say, “bugger off” to lousy city tours wherein you’re herded like sheep from place to place before you can even appreciate and digest the sights before you. Now, you can truly take your time to savor London’s landmarks and satiate not only your eyes, but also your palate for history and culture, because “Hundreds of images from the Museum of London’s extensive collections showcase both everyday and momentous occasions in London’s history, from the great fire of 1666 to the swinging sixties.” (Museum of London – Street Museum. supra)

A Manila edition of “Streetmuseum” would afford our tourism authorities a more truthful advertisement of our capital. Since the distinction of “Streetmuseum”, with its synchronous and overlapping panoramas of the past and present, lies in its emphasis on the beauty of change, even the city’s eyesores can be marketed as a tourist’s must-sees.

The site of what used to be “Smokey Mountain”, for example (say, like the “Tower of London” with its grim and gruesome story), can now be made into a worthwhile attraction – letting tourists have a glimpse into how a colossal mound of trash was converted into a remarkable expanse of low-cost housing; and for its own snippet of historical facts: “Smokey Mountain is a large rubbish dump… Consisting of over two million tons of waste, it has operated for more than 40 years and is known for decomposing at such high temperatures that it will catch fire, a fact from which the location derives its name. Indeed, fires at Smokey Mountain have caused many deaths… Smokey Mountain has a large squatter community, and it is estimated that 30,000 people live near the site, and make their living from picking through the rubbish at Smokey Mountain. In 1993, a joint venture agreement between the National Housing Authority (NHA) and R-II Builders, Inc. (RBI) was made to build a low-cost housing project at Smokey Mountain…” (Smokey Mountain – Wikipedia.; Divine Word College – Why “Smokey Mountain”?

With “Streetmuseum”, city tourism no longer has to be delicately anchored and sold on a city’s neat sights. The attraction is now shifted from “what is”, to the “changes” in scenery. This can be the next “in” thing after ecotourism.

Raul S. Grapilon

Entry No. 8

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