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Constructing Memory

Architectural Narratives of Holocaust Museums

Stephanie Rotem

This book reveals the critical role of architecture in the assimilation of the ideologies and values conveyed at Holocaust museums around the world. Through the architectural analysis of sixteen museums, social, cultural and political agendas will be unfolded.
While the distance in time and place raises the need to create innovative forms of display to reach an audience removed from the Holocaust, the degree to which this can be done by the museums’ exhibits alone is limited. This book shows that architecture, as an abstract form of expression, plays a major role in the conception of Holocaust museums. By conveying values that cannot otherwise be expressed, the museums’ architecture becomes integral to its narrative and, through it, to the construction of collective memories of the Holocaust.

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Concluding Thoughts on the Future of Holocaust Museums 181

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181 Concluding Thoughts on the Future of Holocaust Museums With the introduction of progressive photographical reproductions, the art-historian and theorist André Malraux predicted that these new art albums, which he named le muse imaginaire, the imaginary mu- seum, would replace conventional museums.431 According to him, “imaginary museums” that are ex- perienced without mediation, undermine both the authority of the authentic artifact and the hege- mony of the museum as an institution. More than fifty years later, in an age characterized by digital and virtual information, the authority of the museum is being questioned once again. The internet is flooded with ‘virtual museums’, some of them belonging to conventional museums and others functioning as private, even anonymous, initia- tives. These ‘museums’ have many advantages to offer: they are easily accessible, free, open 24/7… by typing in a few words anybody can view any and every type of object and artifact imagined. “Digital museums” afford a comprehensible answer to intellectual curiosity; but, like photographic reproduc- tions, they will not replace conventional museums. Despite the abundance of internet ‘museums’, the number of ‘actual museums’ is on the rise. Hundreds of millions of dollars are invested each year in the construction of new museums around the world. Since the late 1900s, museums have become increasingly prominent public institutions and in extreme cases, like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the museum’s unique architecture has turned it into the city’s most celebrated icon and attraction. Museums create ceremonial spaces for contemporary civic societies. They serve...

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