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Exhibiting atrocity : presentation of the past in memorial museums / by Amy Sodaro.

Publication | Library Call Number: HV6322.7 .S63 2011

As societies around the world negotiate complex memories of violence, a new form of commemoration has emerged: the memorial museum, which combines commemorative and museological functions in the attempt to come to terms with the past and prevent violence in the future. Emerging out of a contemporary normative demand—referred to by Jeffrey Olick as a “politics of regret”—that collectivities and nations address past injustices and come to terms with the negative past, memorial museums are intended to not only to educate about the past and tell the “truth” about what happened, but also to aid in the recovery of post-conflict societies by promoting an ethic of “never again.” Ultimately, they are used as a key mechanism for building and fostering democratic culture, tolerance, and dialogue in societies undergoing democratic transformation or seeking to redress past wrongs. This dissertation examines three exemplary memorial museums—the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, the House of Terror in Budapest, Hungary, and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in Rwanda—in order to examine the goals and efforts of memorial museums vis-à-vis memory of past violence; built as Arendtian “promises” of a more peaceful and democratic future, memorial museums are created to use the history and memory of the negative past to educate the present and the future. Through research on the political context behind the creation of each museum, a close reading of their exhibitions, and an examination of their public programming, my dissertation raises fundamental questions about the use of memorial museums as mechanisms for coming to terms with the past and preventing future violence. As Maurice Halbwachs argues, how the past is remembered tells us more about the present than it does the past and, indeed, memorial museums tell us much more about the priorities, desires and self-understanding of the societies that build them than they do about the terrible pasts that they remember.

Variant Title
Presentation of the past in memorial museums
Sodaro, Amy, 1975-
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:20:00
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