Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
School of Arts and Humanities
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
© 2022 Deepthi Ponnaluru
Memorial museums that commemorate the turbulent events of the 20th century claim as their main objectives the remembrance of victims and prevention of future atrocities through truth, education and advocacy. Their narratives are, however, sometimes skewed by politics and other influences that lead to exclusion and an exaggerated effect of the spectacle, which distorts on-site interpretation. Furthermore, memorial museums are increasingly blurring the lines between education and entertainment; displays that rely on their emotional effect can more easily manipulate the observer’s reaction and are less likely to encourage critical assessment. I make the argument that by acknowledging only a select category of memories of violence, memorial museums are failing to address and challenge the social rifts and exclusion that characterized the countries’ pasts and could foster exclusion and social rifts today. Memorial museums may encourage empathy with their depictions of suffering, but they often lack accurate historical and political context; unacknowledged grievances, or unsettled, historical memories are likely to increase in intensity with time, and unacknowledged emotional wounds could be powerful motivations for retribution, even violence. Failure to acknowledge memories, including painful memories, could hinder peace building. Reconciliation of memories is an important part of peacebuilding, which includes both the acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility by the perpetrators. The paper engages in a critical analysis of the heritage interpretation at the Terror Háza (House of Terror), Budapest and the Kigali Memorial Center, Rwanda to critique the role of memorial museums, and the ways in which memorial museums create emotionally engaging visitor experiences; and aims to untangle these affective responses and to explore how they impede or facilitate visitor engagement.
Ponnaluru, Deepthi. (2022). Memorial Museums: Politics, Spectacle and Interpretation. CGU Theses & Dissertations, 415. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgu_etd/415.