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Review of Halewood C. and Hannam K. "Viking Heritage Tourism - Authenticity and Commodification." Annals of Tourism Research 28.3 (2001): 565-580

This article presents a survey of issues associated with the topic of Viking Tourism rather than advancing a specific thesis. The first part of the article covers the geographical spread of Viking Heritage Tourism. It then moves on to cover the major types of tourism experiences available. The final section examines the spectrum of authenticity and commodification presented at these sites.

The context of this article is extremely specific focusing almost exclusively on European Viking Tourism experiences although there are a couple of references to Gaelic tourism as well. It covers a range of countries including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It is interesting that it does not cover those presentations of Viking era history occurring in North America such as that at L'anse aux Meadows which began in 1996 - one year before the period the researcher was active. Many of the sites the researcher investigates were begun in the 1970s. It would have provided an interesting addition to their article for them to have shown how an additional 20-30 years of research (1970-2000) impacted presentations created later.

This article is not based on any medieval sources. Instead the research comes from personal interviews with staff and visitors made between 1997 and 1999 at eight different locations including Jorvik (York, UK), Forteviken (Sweden), and Roskilde (Denmark). Additional sources include a variety of papers, and museum publications.

Due to the lack of quantitative information in the article it is impossible to place the interview statements in context or know the full content of the interviews and therefore what methods the authors may have used to interpret the information. The quotes used may or may not be in context. This may be unlikely as the authors are simply presenting options and scenarios but it must be considered when looking at the data presented.

The major focus points of this article are the concern of Viking Centres to find a balance of authenticity within a presentation and the impact of commodification on the visitor's perception of the exhibit. A range of authenticity standards can be applied to any presentation of materials, yet each position on such a scale requires compromises for the presentation. The article presents a wonderful example (p.575) of the extremes to which a presentation can go when attempting to present its work as authentic. The concerns of commodification should also be noted as it can have a negative impact both on the visitor experience, and the authenticity (real or perceived) of the presentation. As a minor point the article surveys three modes of presentation: standard museum, heritage center, and tourist attraction. It is worth noting that the author treats these quite separately and does not seem to consider the hybrid options that would be available to a museum.

The issues of authenticity and commodification will be important factors when presenting the Vikings in a museum or tourist environment. The opinions expressed describe the varying compromises made within a real-world environment and provide valuable options. The lack of hard data such as results from exit surveys of visitors in the article makes it difficult to use the opinions presented in anything other than a subjective way.

      Updated: 4 Dec, 2007
Text © Neil Peterson, 2007   Copyright details
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