Julie Rugg 2020

Cemetery Research Group, University of York, UK

Funerary heritage tourism

In many major cities, the ‘first’ nineteenth-century cemetery is often the focus of cemetery tourism, a leisure activity which has increasing infrastructure support through organisations such as the Association for Significant Cemeteries in Europe. This paper recognises ‘funerary heritage’ as an associated but separate development, which recognises the value of understanding and protecting evidence of funeral practices in the past. There can be an uneasy relationship between cemetery tourism and funerary heritage, in part resting on unwillingness directly to associate cemetery visits with death. Poorly framed cemetery tourism can actively undermine both the tangible and intangible heritage of cemeteries as funerary heritage assets. Many cemeteries are still in use, and this paper regards these sites as ‘living heritage’. In these circumstances, interpretation should acknowledge the bereaved as relevant stakeholders; interpretation needs to be more confident in the ways in which it talks about the various aspects of mortality; foregrounding how the cemetery ‘works’ presents an under-explored narrative frame, particularly with regard to establishing the dynamic nature of funerary heritage; and – as with all interpretation – there is a need to be aware of the ways that interpretation can skew conservation effort. Ethical issues also pertain. In all this, there is a need to be clear about how funerary heritage can be represented and what there is to say. Here it is suggested that, at the very least, interpretation should demonstrate how – across all times and cultures – humanity has striven to come to terms with mortality.


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