Beyond Downton Abbey: Remembering the Great War’s Fallen through Education and Marketing
This paper explores the expanding marketing and education mission of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). Superintendents at overseas cemeteries and battle sites must continue their job of “keeping the headstones white and the grass green” but also must market specific events such as the 70th anniversary of D-Day at the Normandy location and an upcoming 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War in 2018. Part of the effort is passing the memory on to the next generation via materials relevant to young people today. U.S. history teachers who received ABMC grants to travel to Meuse-Argonne in France (the resting place of the most U.S. fallen of any overseas cemetery) to prepare materials to teach World War I served as one of two samples for empirical data. Another sample was drawn from battlefield tourists who visited the Normandy World War II beaches on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Results show “maintaining the memory”, “telling others,” and “simple connection to values/heritage” are key phrases chosen by the respondents on a battlefield tourism survey. From both groups, “I feel proud to visit” was important. “Pilgrimage” is more relevant for the older D-Day group than the young teachers, but both groups indicated that direct interaction with the veterans who were there (Canadian D-Day vets, or in the case of World War I, the teachers spent time with children of WWI soldiers) were major highlights of the trip. Future research will investigate whether these themes are still important motivators once the era of anniversaries is over.