Doing Time-Travel: Performing Past and Present at the Prison Museum
chapterposted on 05.02.2015, 12:48 by Jennifer Turner, Kimberley Peters
[From introduction] The transformation of former prisons to sites of “dark tourism” reflects a recent trend in the use of decommissioned buildings for alternative purposes, such as museums and other heritage sites, which particularly emphasise “representations of death, disaster or atrocity for pedagogical and commercial purposes” (Walby and Piché, 2011: 452). Prisons are spaces that hold a morbid fascination for visitors who are unlikely to ever encounter such a space in their everyday lives (Strange and Kempa, 2003). Far from a traditional tourist site, the prison museum is built upon consumer desire to access the inaccessible; to glimpse a life on the ‘inside’ and all its assumed horrors from the comfort of being on the ‘outside’ (Turner, 2013) – with the choice and liberty, of course, to enter, to leave, to accept or to reject any given exhibition or display (see Hall, 1973). Prison museums cater, on the one hand, to a market of visitors seeking such tourist experiences for entertainment (Adams, 2001; Schrift, 2004). On the other hand, they function to educate visitors about penal pasts, shaping contemporary understandings through engagement with carceral histories (see, for example, Baker, 2014: 1). In this chapter we attend to the ways in which a particular prison museum – the Galleries of Justice, in Nottingham, U.K. – informs and entertains while making the past usable in the present.