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Title: Welcome to my world : researching the role of personal narrative and affective presence at Graceland
Author: Leftwich, Mariruth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 8766
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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This study explores the visitor experience at one of the world's most famous historic houses, Graceland, Elvis Presley's home. The research methodology prioritises the visitor's voice, examining the impact of the Graceland experience on visitor perception. Particular attention is paid to theories of personal narrative and affective presence as interpretive devices. Personal Meaning Maps from 170 visitors form the core data and provide evidence of the profound conceptual changes that occur in visitors' perceptions of Elvis. Visitors consistently describe Elvis as a 'real' person, with personal characteristics such as humility and generosity proving more memorable than his fame or career. The Graceland tour is designed for visitors to connect with Elvis in an affective manner, evoking emotions and relying on narratives of family and nostalgic discourses. This succeeds in providing visitors with an experience that challenges and extends their pre-visit views of Elvis as the 'King of Rock and Roll.' The ability to change visitor perception is linked to the quality of the experience, as Adams et al. (2003) suggests, 'the better the experience, the greater the change' (p. 22). The transformations documented at Graceland prompted investigation, searching for indicators of quality interpretation through analysis of the audio tour content and visitor photographs. This examination reveals a set of interpretive practices potentially useful for other historic properties, including the contextualising of space through personal accounts, the introduction of emotive media, and a reliance on a narrative that is personal rather than objective. This set of practices is framed within the context of the 'Experience Economy,' which proves to be a useful tool for examining the successes of the Graceland tour and visitor impact. While historic sites struggle 2 to find new audiences and compel current audiences to return, this experience framework yields new insights into concepts of effective historic house interpretation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available