Digital archivist Alex Japha had a prescient peek at the future when in 2019 he suggested the topic of imaginary places as an upcoming Special Collections exhibit. A year later, the world would face travel restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving would-be globetrotters with only memories of past travels or visions of getaways that would have to wait. The topic of “imaginary places” became reality in the form of a Special Collections exhibit that opened in Spring 2021.
In this exhibit, which offers an open invitation to “Visit Imaginary Places," virtual travelers will have the opportunity to see utopias, Atlantis, Lilliput, Camelot, Wonderland, and more -- all with no passport required! The imaginary places are brought to you by their creators and are available for discovery in this exhibit and in Lehigh’s Special Collections.
Tales of imaginary places were inspired by many motivating factors. Some were penned as explanations for the as yet unknown in the natural world on maps, while others were created to describe desirable or fantastical worlds that enabled the reader to escape reality. Finally, other fictional locales were invented by authors to disguise the settings of narratives and dramatic works to create an alternate reality and divert attention from real places.
Please travel with us to visit these imaginary places, taking a trip from antiquity to current popular fiction with stops along the way in the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Victorian period, and today. We acknowledge that this exhibit represents for the most part the imaginary lands invented by generations of white men, and we continue to make inroads in identifying the works of diverse and underrepresented writers.
The complete exhibit is available online, with selected works, including utopias and journeys, on display in Linderman Library. Examples of proposals from the university archives representing “Lehigh: Proposed but Never Built” are on display in the E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library. Please see the library website for information regarding hours and access policies.
We hope that you find some respite and relaxation as you embark with Lehigh’s Special Collections on a visit to imaginary places.
Visitors to the exhibit are welcome. Please note that at this time, the libraries are open to Lehigh faculty, staff and students with University clearances and by ID swipe only. The Libraries are following all health and safety protocols. Please check the hours and the FAQ page for a listing of services during the spring semester. Any questions regarding access to the libraries or library services please contact Lending Services at inlend@Lehigh.edu or call 610-758-4992.