I came across Gabriel Moshenska’s Curated Ruins and the Endurance of Conflict Heritage (2015) via Twitter last week, which happily coincided with my first visit to Detroit’s former Michigan Theater (there’s a gallery at the bottom of the post). Though Moshenksa focuses on the ruins of conflict and violence (specifically World War II ruins in Europe) in his piece, it got me thinking about whether some of the concepts from his article could apply to Detroit’s abandoned structures, as well.
In this post, I’ll discuss the life history of the Michigan before turning to Moshenska’s discussion of “curation” and how histories of violence and conflict impact the way we perceive and care for the built environment.
I recently went on an “urbex tour” with one of the more visible tour operators in the metro Detroit area. I went for a few reasons: I was planning on taking my students to the city and wanted to check this tour out before I took them on it; my research focuses on blight in Detroit and this is one of the ways that people see and experience blight (specifically industrial blight, but also neighborhood blight) in the city; and I wanted to compare the dynamic of an organized, paid urban exploration tour with that of the more informal, “traditional” urban exploration outings that I’ve observed and participated in.
In this post, I’ll explore the difference between urban exploration and dereliction tourism, discuss my experiences of the tour, and talk about the ethical implications of dereliction tourism for ethnographic researchers living and working in postindustrial communities.