Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Teaching the Tourism Installation

We've been thinking about interesting ways to  engage younger visitors in"The Business of Having Fun,"  a newly opened segment of our exhibition," Voices of the River: Life along the Yakima," at the MCE.  Developed primarily by Prof.  J. Hope Amason, this exhibition segment explores the cultural history of tourism along the Yakima River, from the emergence of mass tourism in the early twentieth century (emphasizing pleasure, working class solidarity,  'windshield wilderness') to the rise of "New Economy" tourism over the last couple of decades, emphasizing edification, self-fulfillment, self-distinction, class distinction, and sustainability.

How do we get young people actively engaged with this part of the show, not just reading the labels but coming up with interesting questions and ideas, and perhaps creating content that might be incorporated into the installation?   A few preliminary ideas:

  • "Business" and "Fun". We are hoping to get young people to reflect on the somewhat humorous conjunction in the section title: The Business of Having Fun.  How can "fun" be a 'business" for some people?  Who makes money from tourism? Who are the relatively winners and losers, economically, from tourism?  More sophisticated young viewers might be introduced to the dichotomy of 'work' and 'leisure' in American culture, and the ways in which, historically,  industrialization and the formal organization of tourism were so intimately linked.
  • The Multi-Pocketed Vest. The vest on the wall might stimulate some conversation: what might a fisherperson keep in his or her pockets while on the river? This could lead into a conversation about fishing licenses (might be nice to have a mock or expired fishing license to pass around), and in turn to a broader conversation about responsible use of natural resources along the river.
  • The Pilgrimage Component. One small section urges readers to think about the overall structure of the tourist journey in terms of the classic three part structure of pilgrimage (a variation of the classic tripartite structure of any rite de passage: separation. liminality, re-integration.) So one option might be explain verbally the Van Gennep/Turnerian concept of the three part rite of passage, and then give young visitors a piece of paper divided in three sections, in which they would draw, or write out, how the three stages work for a touristic trip they make take.  For instance, "Separation" might involve physically leaving one's normal settings and changing the kinds of clothing one wears;  "Liminality" (the hardest concept to communicate) might involve a novel set of behaviors (on the beach, out in nature, in the car during a long trip), and Re-integration would involve listing or drawing all the behaviors to which one returns, post-journey
  •  The Photography Component.  We also have a small segment, inspired by Marianne Hirsch's book "Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory' (along with Sontag, Barthes, et al) on the ritual functions of photography during touristic journeys.  We are hoping people will share with us examples of family vacation photography, and that these images might stimulate conversations among visitors about how such images are posed and framed, and they kinds of emotional meanings they convey post-journey.  This conversation could be related to the Pilgrimage/Rite of Passage section that proceeds Photography: in what ways do photographic snaps (hard copies or digital images) taken during vacations in effect crystallize experiences of the 'liminal' which can be subsequently accessed post-vacation to give viewers a revitalizing dose of the experience of being 'betwixt and between'? 
  • Sustainable Tourism. One window evokes a segment of the river with litter (a Coke bottle, crushed up beer can, etc).  Young viewers could be asked to describe the kind of litter and environmental damage that can result from tourism, and articulate more responsible practices by tourism.
  • The Raft.  A life size, blown up raft in the middle of gallery will open up some interesting possibilities, we hope, for conversations about water safety,  techniques for negotiating white water, etc.  As soon as we create some cloth fish (that can be fished via poles with magnets), we hope that this will lead to children's activities identifying the species of fish that they 'catch and release."
  • The "Fly Fishing" window.  One window explains a bit about fly fishing and the importance of knowing the seasonal habits and life cycles of different flies on the river, if one is to engage in successful fly fishing. Presumably older viewers could be engaged in conversation about entomology, about casting techniques, etc.
  • Social Class and "Distinction". We had been hoping to inspire some critical reflection on social class, but aren't sure if children had sufficiently internalized the 'rules of the game' to articulate the different class orientations of various kinds of tourism. We could perhaps have some visual learning aids that demonstrate the costs of different kinds of leisure activities on the river, from tubing, to canoe rental, to fly fishing.
  • Indigenous issues.  We are puzzling over this issue. The core part of the exhibition Voices of the River is strong on indigenous issues, emphasizing indigenous perspectives on the river, on the spiritual purity of water, on the restoration of sockeye salmon and of wapato tubers. But in its current form, there aren't Native Voices in the tourism section. Should we actively try to promote conversation about the ways in which mainstream tourism has been a kind of colonial practice, obscuring indigenous histories and presences along the river? Should we actively seek to bring in Native commentaries on sustainable tourism and hopes for culturally-sensitive economic development for the tribes?
Other thoughts on lesson plans and educational strategies that would be appropriate for the "Business of Having Fun"? 

No comments:

Post a Comment