Dark Heritage Sites and Impacts on Visitors’ Engagements with the Past in Taiwan
This thesis investigates the features of dark/difficult heritage sites and their impacts on visitors’ engagements with the past. Two former prison sites, Chia-Yi Old Prison and Jing-Mei Memorial Park, in Taiwan are chosen as case studies, and both of them represent two difficult historical periods when Taiwan was governed by regimes from ‘outside.’ This research examines how Taiwanese citizens visit and interact with these two prison sites, testing the assumption that the use of dark/difficult heritage can be observed not only from the ways that relevant heritage sites are established and managed, but also from the interaction between the heritage and local population.
The observed phenomena demonstrate that the public show different attitudes towards the two prison sites and the impacts they bring to them, and the history displayed in the sites provides opportunities and materials for the public to rethink their previous understanding and current society. The two represented histories need to be put in a context to consider the reasons, which the issues of historical distance, comparison between two backgrounds and other potential can together result in the consequence. This thesis is a snapshot of a nation undergoing development and change and heritage performs as epitome of its complex and difficult history. The interactive process illustrates not only the relation of mutual influence between people and dark sites, but also that people become an important medium and potentially influence the society and how the dark sites are understood by the society.
It is expectant that in addition to offering a unique example of heritage in East Asia after WWII, this research and the raised case of Taiwan are able to show the crucial role heritage practices play in presenting hidden, uncomfortable pasts and the extent such pasts impact on people’s understanding and their society.