Mate, G. 2020. Dark Tourism: collections and memories of war. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 11: 125-142. https://doi.org/10.17082/j.2205-3184.108.40.2060.2020-09
thanatourism, dark tourism, battlefield tourism, First World War, memory, museum
While battlefield tourism, museums and exhibitions to mark the dark side of war are now the subject of research through ideas such as dark tourism or thanatourism, these investigations are generally focused around present-day tourism. During the four years that marked the centenary of the First World War, museums within Queensland Museum created and hosted several exhibitions pertaining to ‘the Great War’. These exhibitions together are conceptually of a style that can be considered a form of dark tourism. However, in examining the many souvenirs, photographs and postcards considered for these exhibitions, it became apparent that considerations of dark tourism of the War and its sites is really a continuation of dark tourism in the War. This involved not only physical visits to sites of death and destruction during and after the War, but the collection of mementos of those visits and pictorial depictions to show at home.
This paper examines the practice of battlefield collecting and tourism during the First World War through the objects held in Queensland Museum. It explores ideas that thanatourism may not be a new phenomenon, instead being part of a long tradition. The examples of collection objects that illustrate this ‘morbid curiosity’ are examined within the context of the war and the ideologies and personal motivations surrounding enlistment and military service in Europe and the Middle East.