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Testimony, memory, and art at the Jewish Holocaust museum, Melbourne, Australia

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posted on 01.01.2013, 00:00 authored by Andrea WitcombAndrea Witcomb
Taking its cue from Charlotte Delbo’s powerful writing about the Holocaust in which she highlights the role of sense memories, this chapter begins with the proposition that sense memories – as distinct from narrative or vicarious forms of memory – are a particularly effective vehicle for the communication of past trauma in the present. The paper explores the potential value of this proposition for the display of objects in a Holocaust museum which are given meaning by the voices of the survivor community and their focus on the importance of testimony. The chapter undertakse an analysis of how the sense memories of survivors animate specific objects on display, exploring the ways in which these objects help the Museum to create a bridge between the survivor community and the wider general public (Auerhahn and Laub, 1990). I argue that built into that process there is a requirement that audiences listen in a manner that makes them a witness to past traumas. This listening process, I want to argue, offers not only an opportunity for healing on the part of survivors but also, following Simon (2005), the exchange of a ‘terrible gift’. That gift, I will suggest, places the visitor as a witness to past traumas and builds an ethical request that they should actively work against future genocides. Central to that possibility, I want to argue, is the way in which the process of witnessing a sense memory is an affective experience for the viewer leading to the potential production of empathy.

History

Title of book

Museums and communities : curators, collections and collaboration

Chapter number

16

Pagination

260 - 274

Publisher

Bloomsbury Publishing

Place of publication

London, England

ISBN-13

9780857851321

ISBN-10

0857851322

Language

eng

Publication classification

B1 Book chapter; B Book chapter

Extent

17

Editor/Contributor(s)

V Golding, W Modest

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