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Understanding Attitudes and Perceptions For Civil War Battlefield, Interpretive Images
Abu Bakar, Shamsul
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Civil War images are important visual records that captured and depict the realities endured by the American people during the Civil War. These images are a powerful visual platform that depicts the vivid representation of past history. Images of Civil War are frequently used as interpretive media, particularly at historic battlefields to enhance the visitor experience and understanding. However, empirical studies of the characteristics of Civil War images that can influence visitors\' experience are limited. Using historic images of Civil War landscapes, this study identified visitors\' preferences and attitudes for Civil War images at five different American Civil War battlefields: Chickamauga and Chattanooga Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Shiloh National Military Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Antietam National Battlefield, and Gettysburg National Military Park. For this study, the Content Identifying Method (CIM) and eye-tracking technology were used in understanding visitors\' preferences. The results indicate that visitors at historic battlefields prefer images that have a strong sense of active military activities and battle-related action. In addition visitors also preferred images that exhibit a high sense of mystery and are visually complex. The study also revealed that visitor background variables such as gender, age group, and ancestors who fought in the Civil War significantly influence visitor preference for Civil War images. Motivation variables such as interest in learning about "the people," "the military elements," "physical artifacts of the Civil War," and distance travelled to historic battlefields also significantly influence visitor preferences. In term of visitor attitudes towards gruesome images, the majority of the participants believe that these types of images are important visual media that can influence their visitation experience at historic battlefields. Eye-tracking technology was useful in revealing the content that attracted participant attention in some of the images, but not in other images. This study provides information that will be useful to park managers and interpretive designers regarding the characteristics of Civil War images that are important in developing interpretive media for the public and factors that may help in the process of customizing the visitor experience at historic battlefields.
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