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Effects of Dark Heritage Site Visitation: Anne Frank House Museum

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1. Introduction

In 2018, at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, passed 1,225,976 visitors had the opportunity to experience, acknowledge and empathize with the lives of eight Jewish people that were hiding in the house during World War 2. The year before that, one of the, unfortunately, more recent sites of dark heritage tourism – World Trade Center in New York, USA, and its Memorial Museum has been visited by more than three million visitors while on the Memorial Site there was a total of 6.8 million visitors. Visitors to this memorial, present witnesses to the consequences of this terrorist act while their presence on the memorial site is a statement of how this act won’t be forgotten, scared of or tolerated in the future. The same year, a city called Pripyat, Ukraine, with its historically known area of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, better known as Chornobyl or as one of the worst nuclear disasters in history has seen a rise of visitors by 35% in relations to 2016. This rise continues and it can be accredited to motives which can be difficult to unravel as they are emerging as a mixture of veneration and thrill of coming in close contact with death.

These and many other sites alike are layered with darkness and they embody the darker aspects of human experience such as crime, war, death, murder, disaster, and atrocity while sharing an additional social phenomenon: tourism.

1.1. Background research

Dark tourism comes in a wide array of forms, all connected by an engagement with death and its representations. Tourists in dark places make sense of their travels through the overlapping, fluid, ever-changing relations of their bodies, emotions, affects, thoughts, and social and cultural interactions.

Dark places are often unruly networks in which identity is performed and contested. They provoke complex reactions in people visiting them because such travels can be undertaken for reasons that might not follow dark motivations. When visiting dark places tourists can experience a sense of danger and fear, often, mixed with excitement. Indeed, fear and danger can make people feel alive, and as tourists engage with death and fear from a safe space, they can effectively perceive the grandiosity and magnificence of what happened, which can manifest in an emotion such as excitement, or catharsis. These sites whereby tourists can express their desire to understand tragic, or death-related events of the past, can be permanent or transitory, a type of space where the “death experience” happens in “real-time”.

Dark tourism experiences arise through explicitly sought encounters, whereby tourists are receptive to the networks of affects arose by the connections with death and its representations. Death is part of the story of such sites, but not always the main overt, and explicitly acknowledged motivation for the visit. To assume so, would be to exclude the demonstrations of national identity, educational experience, thrill, joy, fear, hope, nostalgia, and all the embodied experiences and feelings central to these encounters. While, for example, the connection to a history of slavery and violence in the United States of America would imply dark tourism, tourism staff, and operators orient their narratives towards ‘a set of historical myths that marginalize and romanticize slave life in the antebellum South’.

1.2. Personal statement

The author has chosen this topic because he believes in the importance of preserving dark heritage sites as these sites, if managed properly, could potentially act as mediators between past and future. These sites have historical and cultural significance with the original purpose for visitors to memorialize the victims and receive education to ensure the ‘never again’ hope and as such have the power to influence visitors’ opinions, perspectives, and emotions if they are focused on objectively presenting truth and facts.

1.3. Purpose of the study

The purpose of this research is to understand the relationship between emotions produced by visiting dark heritage sites and the quality of visitors’ life after the visitation. Using Anne Frank House as a case study will provide a better understanding of how does a visit of a dark heritage site affect visitors’ quality of life.

The author believes that the academic relevance for this research is the uniqueness of the connection between the concept of dark tourism and the quality of life concept while industry relevance could be seen as the improvement of dark heritage sites and attractions in their presentation and influence on the society.

1.4. Aim and objectives

The aim to verify if the quality of life has changed after visiting a dark heritage site will be achieved through different objectives including:

  1. Comparing differences between lightest and darkest site – Using Philip R. Stone’s comparison methodology which will be helpful in positioning Anne Frank House on the Stones’ scale as it is important for this research to define the level of darkness of said site because of different emotions and experiences that are connected to each rank in the scale.
  2. Determining the quality of life indicators and how could it be measured which will be linked to the impact of visiting a dark heritage site.
  3. Recognizing emotions caused by the visit of a dark heritage site which will help in understanding visitors’ on-site behavior, experience, and perception of the site.

Besides these objectives, the author will touch upon basic concepts of dark heritage tourism that where appointed by authors that are considered pioneers in dark heritage tourism, such as John Lennon and Malcolm Foley, Richard Sharpley, and Phillip Stone. Concepts given by these authors will provide an overview of how dark heritage tourism developed over the years and will also provide a better understanding of dark heritage tourism as uprising niche tourism.

2. Literature review

In this chapter author will introduce the main literature, concepts, and theories that will be applied, discussed, or argued through this thesis.

2.1. Dark tourism: Theories and concepts

Defining it as a phenomenon that involves the presentation and consumption of sites related to death and disaster, the term “dark tourism” was coined and introduced into the academic field by Lennon and Foley in the year 1996. The same authors in reformulated the term and converted it into a book titled “Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster” which until this day represents one of the most relevant pieces of literature for studying this phenomenon. During this period, alternative terminology has been applied. For example, Seaton refers to death-related tourist activity as “thanatourism”, while Bloom explains it as “morbid tourism”. A few years later, Peter Tarlow defined dark tourism as visiting places where historically significant deaths occurred that continued to affect our lives while Philip Stone simplified the definition and explained that these were trips to destinations related to death, suffering, and atrocities. In the past twenty years, dark tourism has gained academic attention and considerable literature has been published. The main trends in dark tourism cover: definitions and typologies; ethical debates; political roles of such places; motivations, behaviors, and visitors’ experiences; management and marketing; and inquiries on methods. With the appearance of these trends, new definitions have emerged. Stone formed a definition based on a form of experience which states how dark tourism is concerned with encountering spaces of death that have political or historical significance, and that continue to impact upon the living.

2.2. Understanding the dark tourist – motivations for visiting a dark heritage site

While tourist motivation is a well-established and extensively debated theme within tourism studies, dark tourism and thanatourism research was slow to address why people visit places associated with death. Foley and Lennon contended that visits to dark sites were for “remembrance, education or entertainment”. They later argued that such visits could be purposeful or incidental but most result from serendipity, mere curiosity, or the inclusion of such places on the itineraries organized by tour companies. Conversely, Seaton argued that motives for thanatourism were more specifically about encountering (and engaging) with death but these motives could vary considerably in intensity. In addition, thanatourism itself has been described since its inceptions as not involving a definite motivation, but existing ‘across a continuum of intensities’, which resonates closely with the idea of effect. Correspondingly, motives like schadenfreude, a secret pleasure in witnessing the misfortunes of others, or catharsis, where tourists find in the site understanding and meaning for their life, indirectly acknowledge the affective charge of these places. What is notable is that most definitions of dark places, their degree of darkness, and the motivations provided for the visit, often relate to the felt aspects of the encounter.

2.3. Visitors’ experience and behavior

Although initially neglected, there is now a considerable body of research into what visitors do, think, and feel during a visit to a place of death or suffering. A focus on experiences – rather than motivations – has been proposed as more helpful for understanding dark tourism or thanatourism. Investigation of visitors’ experiences has been eclectic in its approach, focus, and context (with most focus on the ‘darker’ sites), but a recurring theme is that such experiences are complex and multi-layered and that, far from being a superficial encounter, a visit to a dark site has the potential to be profound and highly meaningful. The visitor prefers to use imagination as a source of escape so the experience becomes authentic. The connection between than tourist motivation and emotions has not been extensively explored in the literature, although Stone and Sharpley suggested that: “dark tourism can potentially transform the seemingly meaningless into the meaningful through the commodification, explanations, and representations of darkness that have impacted upon the collective self”. In addition, a recent paper has identified 10 facets (physical, sensory, restorative, introspective, transformative, hedonic, emotional, relational, spiritual, and cognitive) of the visitor experience.

Many of these have been explored in the context of dark tourism and thanatourism, although cognitive and emotional experiences have received the most attention. Meanwhile, the uncleared effects of on-site experiences on behavioral intentions. A positive relationship between negative emotions and behavioral consequences has been found while Lee and Zhang et al.’s research showed no direct relationship between emotional experiences and behavioral intentions. Hence, there remains much scope to further explore the complex mechanism of dark tourism experiences.

2.4. Role of emotions

It seems self-evident that places associated with death and tragedy have the potential to produce profoundly emotional experiences and that visitors will, before their visit, be expecting such experiences. Moreover, many visitors have a deep emotional engagement with the places they encounter. However, emotions themselves are not a unique (or defining) feature of dark tourism or thanatourism since all tourist experiences will involve emotions of some kind, although the nature of such emotions has been proposed as a way to differentiate darker forms of dark tourism from other forms of tourism. Research into the emotional dimensions of the visitor experience has adopted a wide range of approaches and methodologies. In some cases, the focus is on identifying the prevalence of emotions within the visitor experience. However, most researchers have focused on the nature of emotions experienced by visitors.

A concept related to emotional effects which present another emerging theme within tourism studies. Although often used interchangeably with emotion, affect refers to the imperceptible, visceral, and embodied ways in which people are affected by a place before their conscious awareness of it and before they form an emotional response. Places associated with death, suffering, or danger have the potential (or capacity) to produce affective responses among visitors but to date, only one researcher has explicitly focused on the affective dimensions of dark tourism in the context of travel to dangerous places.

2.5. Quality of life indicators and concepts

Tourism, given its characteristics, has great potential to influence the quality of life of all stakeholders involved in its development process. According to Constanza et al., QOL refers to the extent to which people’s needs are met and to which people are satisfied or dissatisfied in various life domains. Bearing in mind these definitions, QOL may also be considered as the satisfaction perceived by individuals with several domains of their life, considering their needs and expectations. According to Neal QOL studies are frequently either objective or subjective. While objective QOL studies focus on social indicators (e.g. age, income, and crime rate), subjective QOL studies attempt to measure the satisfaction individuals perceive to have during their lives. As Constanza et al. state, once QOL involves perceptions of satisfaction, in order to assess the QOL, both objective and subjective indicators are required.

There are several domains in the scope of QOL. A physical domain of QOL is usually identified in these instruments, including the absence of diseases and features such as having energy, the opportunity to sleep and rest, and, also, the capacity to work. There is also a psychological dimension of QOL which is much related to emotions, to good or bad feelings, self-esteem, and the ability to learn and concentrate, among other features. It is also possible to distinguish a social domain of the QOL, which is related to social interactions established with other people and social support. Other features of the QOL are associated to the environment where individuals live, work and interact, namely, economic conditions, financial resources, security, infrastructures, and equipment people have access to, namely the home environment conditions, transportation, health services, and recreation and leisure opportunities. Few studies analyze the role of leisure and tourism in enhancing the QOL of travelers. In studies where the impact of tourism on the QOL of travelers’ is analyzed. Neal et al. developed a model and a measure in order to capture the effect of tourism services on travelers’ QOL. Moscardos’s study presents a qualitative analysis of the impacts of tourism on the QOL of individual tourists. These types of study are important for identifying strategies that might increase the QOL of visitors. 

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Effects of Dark Heritage Site Visitation: Anne Frank House Museum. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/effects-of-dark-heritage-site-visitation-anne-frank-house-museum/
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Effects of Dark Heritage Site Visitation: Anne Frank House Museum. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/effects-of-dark-heritage-site-visitation-anne-frank-house-museum/> [Accessed 23 Sept. 2022].
Effects of Dark Heritage Site Visitation: Anne Frank House Museum [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Aug 30 [cited 2022 Sept 23]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/effects-of-dark-heritage-site-visitation-anne-frank-house-museum/
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