Having visited Body Worlds, a number of concentration camps, the ‘Killing Fields’, and having taught about memory in history, this story in Times Higher Education caught my interest: the field of new research ‘Dark Tourism’.
The preserved fetuses and chess-playing cadavers in Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds have made it the world’s most popular touring exhibition. Although the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were a significant New York City tourist attraction, the numbers have been dwarfed by the vast tide of visitors – 9 million in 2010 – who have come to look at Ground Zero since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
The phenomenon of “dark tourism” is now the subject of serious academic analysis. Last week saw the official opening of the Institute for Dark Tourism Research at the University of Central Lancashire. This is largely the brainchild of its executive director, Philip Stone, a senior lecturer in tourism who worked as a management consultant and general manager, largely within the tourist industry, before joining the academy in 2001.
He developed a particular interest in dark tourism – which he now defines as “the act of travel to sites of death, disaster or the seemingly macabre” – when he came across a student doing a dissertation on the topic.