Holy lands and theme parks: religious visitor attractions worldwide

Thursday 19 April 2018,
BP Lecture Theatre
Free, booking essential

Phone +44 (0)20 7323 8181
Ticket Desk in Great Court

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As a burgeoning middle class seeks out modernity and fun as well as education and divine help, theme-parks are taking over much of the role of museums and much of the role of temples. This short talk by Crispin Paine, formerly Institute of Archaeology UCL, will report on a project to examine religion in visitor attractions worldwide.

Religion appears in many thousands of theme parks throughout the world. 'Religion parks', especially in India and the USA, are set up by religious groups to promote their faith. Examples are the Evangelical Christian Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida, and the Swaminarayan Hindu Akshardham in New Delhi. Religion also features strongly in cultural parks, both those themed (often nostalgically) on local culture, and those themed on 'exotic' foreign cultures. Such parks are common in China, Japan and South East Asia. Examples include the Buddhist Suoi Tien in Saigon and the Mormon Polynesia Park in Honolulu. The talk will look particularly at Bible-based attractions in the US, which the Palestine Exploration Fund recently enabled Crispin Paine to study.

The talk will touch on the underlying political agenda of many parks, the relationship of cultural parks to museums, the themes common to parks east and west (heaven and hell, the 'Holy Land', gods and monsters, religious leaders), the business context, and the impact on visitors.

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Ark Encounter, Kentucky, USA. Photo: J Bielo.