Embodying Space Performance, Tourism and Difficult History

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Christine Bucher

Abstract

In this paper, I consider how tourist performance—provisionally defined as embodied experiences—at northern historical sites can help visitors engage with the difficult legacy of slavery, which has traditionally been ignored, hidden, or inadequately presented at museums. The built environment of the museum can provide insight into the conditions of past lives of such venues, and help visitors create empathy for the historical other. In addition to a survey of literature on museums, the changing nature of historical interpretation about slavery at museums, and a consideration of built space and somatic knowledge, I develop a case study involving a Slave Dwelling Project sleepover at Morven Museum and Garden in Princeton, New Jersey. I conclude with an attempt to explore the potential for such an approach, and a discussion of implications for museums and visitors.

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Graduate Research Prize (Communication)