What if you could stay in the very room where one of the most heinous crimes in American history had occurred? At the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, you can, but how acceptable is this? How does one begin to experience darkness from a tourism site? Dark Tourism, which refers to “any site of death, grief, or suffering that is marketed as a site of heritage tourism,” gives people a place to experience these aspects of life and history. Places of death that are turned into places of touristic consumption give people a forum to discuss death and other tragedies. However, what methods are employed, dealing with such sites? In this thesis I set out to discuss the methods of Dark Tourism, evaluating three different types of Dark Tourism sites, represented by the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, Alcatraz Penitentiary(now Alcatraz Island, NPS), and Sloss Furnaces National Landmark. I chose each site for its optimal representation of certain types of Dark Tourism attractions: historical house, prison, and industrial tourism. I asked the staff of each institution how they handle its violent past, how they interpret and market it to the public today, or if they choose to ignore it all together. The method I used to conduct this research was a phone interview with the staff of each institution. Each survey included two sections, one of questions that are consistent throughout, and another consisting of those customized to the individual institution. After transcribing and interpreting the responses, as well as comparing them to standards and practices of museums, I made a recommendation for each type of Dark Tourism institution, as well as an overall recommendation for Dark Tourism in general. The recommendations are broken down into an analysis of what they are currently doing and recommendations for how to fix any significant issues that I identify. Standards will be sought and brought via precedent cases in the Dark Tourism field, and also through cases of how violence is handled and reacted to in the news today. Through this thesis I wish to achieve a way for Dark Tourism institutions to be better equipped to not only handle the violent past, but to give the visitor a better, more healing--yet truthful--experience.
Museum Studies (BS)
Additional Streaming Media
Pietrowski, Jean, "Regulating the Violent Past: Methods in Dark Tourism" (2016). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus
On thesis page 18, paragraph 3, the sentence should read: “Also known as “The Rock,” Alcatraz ran as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.” A typographical error had incorrectly listed the beginning date as “1943” – Correction submitted by thesis author, March, 2017.