Word of the day: Thanatourism

There appears to be a strong new trend in cultural tourism called grief tourism or (my new favorite word) thanatourism. The Grief Tourism blog lists categories of thanatourism in which one can specialize, including battlefield, cemetery, ghost, Holocaust and prison specializations, as well as sites of murders, natural disasters and terrorism. A recent history museum community posting calls for papers for a “Conference on Dark/Death/Thanatourism” in New York this April.

In their words: “These sites are part of the recreational landscape of tourism, which, through the genre of thanatourism, has managed to incorporate this particular form of ‘negative sightseeing’ into what is otherwise an industry dedicated to pleasure, time out of time, and escape, as well as to edification, spiritual experience, and personal transformation.”

This adds another dimension to the issues museums face as we re-define our roles in the new century, especially in light of the paranormal investigation significance we didn’t know we had (see previous post).

  • The first question from our colleagues is this: how do you know a thanatourist when you see one?
  • The second question: how and where do you market your site to thanatourists?
  • The third is: how do you know when you have met the minimum grief standards for thanatourism listing, and is there a logo you get to put on your museum’s door? If so, what does it look like?
  • The fourth, at least from the peanut gallery up here: do fossil Lagerstatten count, or is there not enough grief left after a million years or so? We imagine that some of these were quite tragic at the time.

We look forward, with tears of anticipation in our eyes,  to more research on these issues.