This virtual exhibition takes you around the world following in the footsteps of explorers, merchants, scholars and curious travellers who, over three centuries, opened the doors of Europe to the world. The exhibits span the period from when America was discovered up to the nineteenth century, an era when Europe discovered vast, rich and mysterious new worlds. The protagonists of this lengthy saga encountered landscapes with contrasting spirits. Merchants, missionaries, scholars, mapmakers, artists and pirates travelled in search of different things. Some were driven by a sense of wonder or curiosity while others sought wealth, or were driven by a desire for conquest, a thirst for knowledge or to spread the word of God. The travellers’ encounter with new, hitherto unknown worlds often brought about a re-evaluation of their own customs and certainties, but sometimes confirmed their own sense of superiority.
The travellers’ adventures were recounted in letters, travel journals, historical and geographical treatises, commercial manuals and linguistic studies. Written in the authors’ own language or in Latin, these texts were often translated into other European languages and republished many times in order to satisfy demand. Europe was hungry for news of these new lands.
Everyone wanted to travel, if not in person then at least vicariously through tales told by others.