The Thinking Traveller

The Thinking Traveller

A series that draws on the passions, expertise and interests of Academy Travel's academic tour leaders, to bring a wealth of additional knowledge to your travels, one topic at a time. Hosted by Jo Litson, our tour leaders talk on a range of topics and interests related to travel, covering history, culture, archaeology, architecture, the visual arts and the performing arts.

Episodes

May 3, 2021 18 min

This year's Canberra International Music Festival features the premiere of a new work by Melbourne-based composer Katy Abbott. As part of its partnership with CIMF, we interviewed Katy about her work Hidden Thoughts: Do I matter.?

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Very little was known about the fate of the small number of ANZAC's taken prisoner during the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 until Dr Jennifer Lawless uncovered their story and in the process found a vast divergence from the then accepted version of their internment by Ottoman Turkey

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The National Gallery of Australia is currently hosting a blockbuster exhibition from the National Gallery in London. Titled Botticelli to Van Gogh the exhibition surveys 500 years of European art, from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. Academy Travel has hosted several groups at the exhibition. Here is our expert review from one of our tour leaders, Dr Kathleen Olive.

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As part of Academy Travel's partnership with the Canberra International Music Festival, the Festival's 2021 composer-in-residence Brian Howard discusses the Festival's theme, 'the idea of Vienna', and his works which are being premiered at the Festival.

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The Medici family rose to prominence in 14th-century Florence, making a humble beginning as moneychangers but eventually becoming one of Europe’s most powerful dynasties and renowned arts patrons. Dr Kathleen Olive joins us today to discuss the rise and fall of the Medici dynasty – a 300-year history coloured by strategic powerplay, bitter rivalries and bloody intrigues.

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November 12, 2020 22 min

 In 2017, a painting of the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record-breaking $450 million USD at Christie’s auction house in New York. What drives art prices to such astronomical levels? Dr Nick Gordon discusses why the art market is so attractive to investors, the role played by auction houses, and how this is affecting artists. 

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October 29, 2020 17 min

Tucked away in the far eastern Himalaya, Bhutan is arguably the last bastion of the Tibetan Buddhist culture and religion in its truest form. Despite opening up to tourism in the late 70s, it has managed to minimise the effect of outside influences and the country remains virtually untouched. Judy Tenzing joins us today to discuss what she describes as “a modern Shangri-la”. 

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Palladio was the most influential architect of the Italian Renaissance, and his buildings were perfectly proportioned, intelligent and gracious yet unpretentious and practical. In our latest episode, Dr Nick Gordon explores Palladio’s life and career, and explains why his books and buildings continue to influence architects today.

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September 25, 2020 30 min

Mayflower, the ship that carried the Pilgrims from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in September 1620. More than 30 million Americans can now trace their ancestry to the 102 passengers on that ship. On the 400th anniversary of that iconic voyage, Dr Matthew Laing explores the story of the Pilgrims and explains why the Mayflower looms so large in the history of the United States.

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Royna McNamara joins us today to trace the footsteps of Giacomo Puccini and Maria Callas, and discuss the events that helped shape their musical lives. We begin on the picturesque shores of Lake Massaciuccoli in Torre Del Lago, where Puccini lived and composed for 30 years, before heading to the magnificent Arena di Verona. 

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Three months out from the American election, the polls have Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump in every State. But can we believe the polls? Is Trump in trouble? Have COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement changed the dynamics of American politics? Will Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris for Vice President have a big impact? What will it mean for America – and the world – if Trump is re-elected in November? And is it the end of Ame...

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August 14, 2020 24 min

It’s known as the Guggenheim Effect – the extraordinary impact that the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao had in revitalizing the Basque city into an international arts destination. Initially, the idea for the museum generated so much controversy and opposition that it nearly didn’t happen. Dr Jeni Ryde joins us today to explain why Bilbao, as she puts it, is a phoenix rising from the ashes. 

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In the 1920s, a cultural movement emerged in uptown New York. For the first time in history, African Americans were living in large urban areas, economically independent, and becoming producers and patrons of the arts. Dr Matthew Laing joins us today to trace the rise and fall of the Harlem Renaissance, and explain its importance in the development of black identity in the United States.

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Dr Estelle Lazer joins us today to discuss Sir Douglas Mawson’s colossus legacy in Antarctic exploration. Estelle was the first archaeologist to work at the site associated with Mawson's Australian Antarctic Expedition at Cape Denison on the Antarctic mainland. She has travelled to Antarctica seven times, including four summers camping and working on the ice at Cape Denison.

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Lake Mungo, in outback NSW, is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Australia. One of the Willandra Lakes, listed by UNESCO as a place of world heritage, it has been described as “the land frozen in time”. Rich in Aboriginal heritage, Dr Chris Carter joins us today to discuss the history and importance of Lake Mungo and the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area.

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When we talk about the Italian Old Masters we immediately think of Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto and Caravaggio. All men. But there were more women painters than you might imagine during the Italian Renaissance. Dr Kathleen Olive introduces us to some of them and explains how their work is now being revisited, restored and re-evaluated.







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Tenzing Norgay Sherpa is a household name to many. In 1953, he and Edmund Hillary became the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest. It was Tenzing’s lifelong dream and his seventh attempt. Historian Judy Tenzing joins us today to discuss the story of the illiterate, humble yak herder who rose to make his mark in history.

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Known as the greatest American architect of all time, Wright’s iconic structures continue to attract visitors from around the world. From his beginnings in Chicago to his masterpiece in New York, Wright’s work changed the way we build and live. Social historian Stuart Barrie discusses Wright’s colourful career and the lasting legacy of this genius American architect.

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Although he spent much of his career in Italy, Jeffrey Smart is one of Australia’s most significant artists, famous for his depictions of stark urban landscapes, often entirely devoid of figures. In this episode, art historian Dr Nick Gordon discusses Smart’s life, work and prodigious career.

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Garden design is an important Japanese art form which has been evolving for over 1000 years. Literary and cultural historian Dr Kathleen Olive tells us about the history of the Japanese garden, what makes it so different from Western gardens, and how to make the most of a garden visit.

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