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Child’s play at war memorials: insights from a social media debate

Price, RH and Kerr, MM (2018) Child’s play at war memorials: insights from a social media debate. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 13 (2). 167 - 180. ISSN 1743-873X

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Each year, thousands of children visit memorials and other heritage sites during family or school trips, yet heritage scholars possess little understanding of their experiences. Despite its absence from the scholarly literature, children’s exploratory play at war memorials recurs frequently in the popular media. Extensive social media interest suggests that public sentiment, often emotional and vividly expressed, deserves study as a potential influence on children’s experiences at these and other dark heritage sites. This paper provides new insights of behavioral expectations for children at memorials, based on content analysis of 150 comments on a viral social media post picturing children playing on the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC. Conducting a stance analysis of comments, we considered commenters’ behavioral expectations, meanings they ascribed to memorials, and rationales for their intensely worded positions. Commenters shared several values: that memorials represented soldiers’ sacrifice, veterans’ service, general places for respect or to do what is right, or artistic value. Yet despite these shared rationales, many commenters expressed polarized opinions of children’s play at memorials. Commenters also referenced memorials and battlefields worldwide. This study provides greater understanding of the cultural context of children’s visits to memorials and other sites of painful heritage.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Price, RHrhp16@pitt.eduRHP16
Kerr, MMmmkerr@pitt.eduMMKERR0000-0002-2082-8812
Date: 4 March 2018
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Heritage Tourism
Volume: 13
Number: 2
Page Range: 167 - 180
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1080/1743873x.2016.1277732
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1743-873X
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2017 19:23
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2021 10:55


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