Examining the Effects of Witnessing, Interpreting, and Collecting Traumatic Content

Lecture: Wrocław, Poland
July 2-5, 2018

This project consisted of exploring two major facets of memorial and museums: 1) how they interact with the site of trauma on which they are located – or alternatively how they locate history and memory in places where the communal trauma itself is still “alive” thus representing a trauma of place and 2) how the people who work at these places (many of whom have a connection to the communal trauma itself) bear interpreting, educating and witnessing difficult content. The research emerged from work at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City; the Apartheid Museum and surrounding memorials in South Africa; the Memorial Museum at Caen in France which situates itself on top of a bunker built in the earth and which housed German soldiers during the occupation; Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel; Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim, Poland; and the Tuol Sleng Museum and Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

By Stephanie Arel