‘Behind The Scenes Of The Disaster Museum: Titanic Belfast, Strokestown Park and The Mediation Of Memory’

Authors: Tracey Potts*,
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: Titanic Belfast, Strokestown, disaster, museum, dark tourism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Galerie 2, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Taking the museum as a significant apparatus of mediation, this paper will explore some of the issues at stake in Belfast’s appropriation of the Titanic myth (Howells, 2012) in its urban regeneration strategy. The branding of the city’s former shipbuilding district as the ‘Titanic Quarter’, together with its visitor attraction dedicated to the story of RMS Titanic, have been controversial developments, raising questions around difficult heritage and the commodification of memory. Titanic Belfast, according to its website, ‘the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience’, has, likewise, attracted criticism on the grounds of taste, being marked as an example of ‘maritime kitsch’ (Johnson, 2015: 160) or else as a ‘dark tourist’ site. As William J.V. Neill (2013: 68) points out – bluntly – ‘Titanic sells.’ The task of the paper will, then, be one of trying to disentangle all of the conflicting meanings that stratify Titanic Belfast as a visitor attraction, whilst paying attention to the challenges that ensue when the disaster enters the museum and when memory meets tourism. To sharpen the question of branding and commodification, media and history, a comparison will be made between Titanic Belfast and Strokestown Park, The Irish National Famine Museum, where the great social disaster of the 1840s is retold using the unique records of the Strokestown estate archive.

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