Affect and the politics of testimony in Holocaust museums

Cooke, Steven and Frieze, Donna- Lee 2016, Affect and the politics of testimony in Holocaust museums. In Tolia-Kelly, DP, Waterton, E and Watson, S (ed), , Taylor & Francis (Routledge), Abingdon, Eng., pp.75-92.

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Title Affect and the politics of testimony in Holocaust museums
Author(s) Cooke, StevenORCID iD for Cooke, Steven
Frieze, Donna- Lee
Editor(s) Tolia-Kelly, DP
Waterton, E
Watson, S
Publication date 2016
Series Critical studies in heritage, emotion and affect
Chapter number 4
Total chapters 14
Start page 75
End page 92
Total pages 18
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Place of Publication Abingdon, Eng.
Keyword(s) Heritage
Holocaust Museums
Summary In 2010, the Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC) in Melbourne unveiled its new permanent exhibition, replacing one that had remained, mostly unchanged, for the past twenty years since a major redevelopment in 1990. The former exhibition had received many plaudits from visitors and reviewers for its homespun, intimate aesthetics and display techniques, largely based on photographs (Light, 2002). Central to the JHC’s role as a site of mourning and education, the exhibition included the use of personal testimony from Melbourne’s Holocaust survivors, both in the exhibition displays and through the survivors who ran the museum and shared their stories with individuals and groups. A continuing anxiety over the thirty-year history of the JHC has been the passing of Holocaust survivors. These survivor guides were central to the discourse of a “living museum,” seen as giving the organization its uniqueness compared to other Holocaust institutions as well as other museums generally. Oral survivor testimony was perceived as a key aspect of the museum’s pedagogic potential: The affective encounter with survivors telling their stories while the visitor was viewing the exhibition was identified as having a transformative function, particularly for school-age students who comprised the majority of the visitors. The exhibition redevelopment in 2010 was, in part, a manifestation of that anxiety, with the urgency to incorporate survivor video-testimony increasing as the survivors aged and their memories faded. However, replacing a much-loved exhibition was fraught with difficulties, as the survivors were still very much part of the museum decision-making process. As the JHC had gradually moved from a survivor-volunteer based place of mourning to a professionally run museum with paid employees, there was a need to preserve the voices of the survivors who had been guides at the museum since its opening. Approaching a time when the survivors are not bodily present to share their stories, how might their testimonies still have transformative potential and inform interpretive techniques?
ISBN 1317122380
Language eng
Field of Research 210204 Museum Studies
Socio Economic Objective 950304 Conserving Intangible Cultural Heritage
HERDC Research category B1 Book chapter
ERA Research output type B Book chapter
Copyright notice ©2016, Taylor & Francis
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