Accidental tourists: Visiting ephemeral war memorials

Ekaterina V. Haskins, Michael A. Rancourt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


How a memorial impacts public memory depends not just on its symbolic appeals but also on how it gains the attention of visitors and how those appeals convert visitors into engaged participants. Although numerous studies have explored visitors’ performances at sites of memory, this scholarship has largely overlooked what we call “the accidental tourist,” the would-be visitor who had not planned to visit a site of memory but ended up doing so because of the site’s proximity to another existing attraction or daily route. Building on research into the performances of memory at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, we expand inquiry into the way memorials attract and engage visitors by studying two temporary memorials to the cost of the Iraq War. We demonstrate how these memorials gain attention and prompt the engagement of “accidental tourists” through temporal and spatial tactics as well as both overt and subtle cues for visitors to interact with the site, organizers, and other visitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-178
Number of pages15
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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