[ Passport to Memory Project ]

Passport Project

Travel, for me, is a chance to explore and learn and discover. So, whenever I set about to traveling and have chosen my destination, I do two things:

1. Check the FoodNetwork and Chowhound websites for featured restaurants and must-see stops

2. Check the National Park Service for national parks and historic sites.

The National Park piece of my travel-planning is new, and comes with an ulterior motive. In 2007, I was in Salem, Massachusetts to see mixed-media/collage artist Joseph Cornell’s exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum. At a gift shop, I picked up a National Park Passport book.

The Passport program was started back in the eighties as a way to encourage Americans to see their national parks. The passport book is designed to be cancelled in the same way your official passport is – with cancellation stamps available at all Park information centers.

For those of you who didn’t know, or who may have missed Ken Burns’ The National Parks series, there are 58 national parks and 333 national monuments and historic sites across this county. No doubt you have been to some of these – think Boston Commons, the National Mall in D.C., the Statue of Liberty. These, and the other sites, offer up fascinating opportunities to learn about our country’s history.

I will confess, though, that learning about history was not the motive in purchasing the Passport book. You see, the Joseph Cornell exhibit was about seeing things in new ways.

“Making something new from nothing or the pre-existing is….central to the modern concept of creativity: the collision and recombination of ideas. Traditions can be reinterpreted; connections can be forged between the seemingly random or disparate,” wrote the exhibit’s curator Lynda Hartigan.

When I saw the Passport book and its delightfully empty pages, I saw the opportunity for some random art!

My “Passport to Memory” project is a journal of sorts, capturing past and current travels. I don’t focus on the park itself or the monument, so much as the story and memories of the day. I work on the Passport project both retroactively — recounting stories from family vacations — and in present-day, carrying it with me when I venture to new parks and sites in my travels.

I thought I would share some of the pages with you as a way to encourage you to explore, to learn and to see things in new ways!

Watch for “Passport to Memory” pages as they appear here in this blog…randomly!

• • •

Joseph Cornell
Essex Peabody Museum
National Park Service
Ken Burns’ The National Parks

©2010, Jennifer Payne

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