U of G history Prof. Kevin James has studied what he calls the “vibrant literary culture” that lives in hotel guest books. He said in a recent New York Times article that a resurgence in the guest book experience is similar to how the books were used in the 19th century.
“It was about ritually joining the travellers who have also written in that book,” he said. “It was about making a hotel seem less transitory, and assimilating yourself into the history of a place and into a community of users and inscribers.”
According to the article, guest books had become relegated to small bed-and-breakfasts, safari lodges and independent luxury hotels. But they are increasingly reappearing in larger accommodations, where they invite creative and personal comments.
James said the books were a way for travellers to leave their mark and highlight their identity and status, something social media is now used for.
He has recently studied the hospitality sector in rural Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, especially commercial, social and cultural histories of the inn.