The primary aim of my project is to evaluate how the Centenary celebrations for the First World War have impacted on British tourists consumption of items of heritage on the Western Front, and more specifically in the area of Ieper, Belgium. Ieper (Ypres) is a historical centre for British tourists due to the locality of major items of remembrance such as the Menin Gate memorial and Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest British First World War Cemetery, as it is the site for the infamous Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres). The Centenary celebrations have propelled the First World War to a new status in the public consciousness. Tourist numbers to this area have been steadily rising before the Centenary, however, as the temporal distance to the conflict grows some fear that the emotional connection is fading and it is becoming merely a tourist attraction, and not a place of remembrance and education.
There is extensive research on how visitors have come to interact with items of heritage on the Western Front, most of which comment on the importance, or question the impact of the Centenary celebrations and this study aims to answer those questions. Undoubtedly more visitation will result from the four year event, however the important questions are: Have the nature of visitors experiences changed and what has caused this change? Are these changes limited to certain groups, e.g. age? Do Sites of Memory experience changes in the same manner as other items of heritage that may be educationally focused?
The study will look to further explore the relationship of Sites of Memory as items of heritage to other heritage sites that are perhaps lean towards education rather than remembrance. As the temporal distance to the conflict grows are the divisions between these sites deteriorating as they come to fulfill a similar purpose? Or are they being driven apart in an attempt to maintain the emotional resonance of Sites of Memory? Has the influx of attention brought to these sites by the centenary accelerated previous trends or has it spawned new changes?