A strained InyGa1-yAs layer is incorporated adjacent to the emitter barrier of an AlxGa1-xAs/GaAs/AlxGa1-xAs double-barrier resonant-tunneling structure (DBRTS), so that it forms a prewell for the electrons that accumulate prior to tunneling into the GaAs quantum well (QW). Observation of photoluminescence (PL) and photoluminescence excitation (PLE) from the prewell then enables a direct optical determination of the charging behavior in the emitter-accumulation region to be achieved. We show in addition that an optical probe of the prewell can, by consideration of the electrostatics, provide a reliable determination of the charge distribution in the whole DBRTS at the peak of the tunneling resonance. These results are shown to be in agreement with separate determinations of the charge in the GaAs QW by direct PL measurements, and of the charge in the emitter-accumulation layer from magnetotransport studies. The electron density in the prewell can be varied continuously over a wide range, from 0 to 9×1011 cm-2. The second subband is populated at high applied bias, with the density varying from 0 to 1×1011 cm-2. This structure is then very well suited to the study of the many-body nature of the excitonic enhancement near the absorption threshold, over a much wider range of electron densities than previously studied on an individual sample. Utilizing temperature-dependent PLE measurements, we have monitored the variation from an atomic exciton in n=1, to a Fermi-energy edge singularity (FEES) in n=1, through to a FEES in n=2, in the same sample.