PhD Dissertations: Jennifer K. Jones, 2016

The Historical Archaeology of Tourism at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1885-1960

 

Abstract

This study examines the construction of place for tourists at Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia, between 1885 and 1960. Port Arthur, a popular Tasmanian tourist destination today, was first established in 1830 as a secondary punishment station for British convicts and closed in 1877. Six months following its closure, the first steamship full of pleasure-seekers interested in visiting the former penal settlement arrived at Port Arthur. While some groups in Tasmania worked to shed the stain of its convict past, tourist interest in Port Arthur increased. The substantial income tourism introduced to a limited local economy resulted in tensions between hiding the convict past and profiting from it.

The way Port Arthur was created and recreated for tourists changed through time and was often affected by context. Constructions of the site and its history were driven by a number of fiscal, social and cultural factors, and these were navigated by several groups. A number of actors, including hotel proprietors, tour operators, postcard producers, museum curators and guidebook authors, had varied roles and interests in the site, and these were enacted in a variety of media. To explore some of the nuances in the ways Port Arthur was constructed for tourists, material culture from several contexts around the site was examined. This includes assemblages from hotels and guesthouses at Port Arthur, advertisements for the hotels printed in newspapers and guidebooks, postcards which depicted the site, and private museum collections that interpreted the site for visitors. These collections were examined for expressions of dark tourism and romanticism, along with broader understandings of authenticity and inauthenticity in the construction of Port Arthur for tourists.

Evidence from all available contexts at Port Arthur was used (where possible) to evaluate historical theories regarding the development of mass tourism in the western world. Artefact assemblages from hotels and guesthouses at Port Arthur were also used to assess existing theories about the material nature of tourism as a phenomenon, identify a material signature unique to tourist sites and better understand material manifestations of tourism.

Keywords: historical archaeology; tourism; material culture; Port Arthur; Tasmania; hotels