The Naval Museum and Zemaitija National Park run the project “Improving Dark Tourism Service in South Baltic Countries”. The project is exploring the trend ”dark tourism” as a way to expand the tourist season by using the darkness of fall and winter. 

What is dark tourism?

The term "dark tourism" is a broad concept for tourism where stories, memorials and material testimony about suffering, injustice, fear, and death are central. The term lacks a uniform definition and is often divided into subgroups. Relevant to this project is dark cultural heritage tourism. Popular dark tourism attractions might include cemeteries, battle fields or historical museums as well as very well-known places such as Auschwitz, the catacombs in Paris or Ground Zero.

Dark tourism definitions

Dark tourism started to gain academic attention in the early 90s, but only recently gained an increased interest among travelers.

Dr Hailey Stanton has provided this summary of the concept:
“An early definition by John Lennon and Malcolm Foley, term dark tourism as ‘the representation of inhuman acts, and how these are interpreted for visitors’.

In a more recent publication, Kevin Fox Gotham defines dark tourism as ‘the circulation of people to places characterized by distress, atrocity, or sadness and pain. As a more specific component of dark tourism, “disaster tourism” denotes situations where the tourism product is generated within, and from, the aftermath of a major disaster or traumatic event’”.

What do we expect from a project on dark tourism?

The partners in this seed money project have identified a joint challenge in our development as museums and visitor sites. As museums we are open all year around but have a majority of our visitors in the summer. The so called shoulder seasons in fall and spring are opportunities s to attract more visitors and expand our offers. Instead of working against the darkness of fall and early spring we have identified dark tourism as an opportunity to use the darkness both thematically and literally. Expanding the season is therefore a major goal for a future project.

Second is that we want to attract a more diverse audience to our museums and visitor sites. Through stories that problematize history and highlight less glorious dimensions of cultural history we hope to develop relationships with a younger audience.

The seed money project will mainly explore the three following questions:

  • How can we define dark tourism in a cultural heritage context?
  • How can we use dark tourism as a way to attract new audiences?
  • How can we use dark tourism to create experiences and events during the dark season of the year?

The investigation of these questions will result in a concept paper to form the basis of a full-scale project.

Seed money project partners

The Cold War museum exhibition is located in Zemaitija National Park, in the former underground missile launching complex. The top-secret military facility was built by the Soviet Union in 1962. Four medium range ballistic missiles were deployed here and were aimed at Western European countries for almost 16 years. Of course, none of these nuclear weapons were used during this period.

In the exhibition, you can enter an actual missile silo with a huge technology block that used to hold equipment for the missile base. The main question to take from the exhibition is “what are the consequences of war?

The Naval Museum tells the story of the Swedish naval defense from 1522 to the present day. Located in the world heritage site, The Naval Port of Karlskrona, our museum is part of an ongoing story about all the people who have been affected by the navy in times of both peace and war. In the museum you can experience dramatic stories relating to life onboard an 18th century warship, go inside a submarine from the cold war era and learn more about how struggles of power have shaped the history of the Baltic Sea.


Would you like to join us in exploring the possibilities of dark tourism? Please contact us by the email address below.