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Memory & memorialization: The reality of planning for a memorial museum

Does memory have a lifespan?  If so, does it correspond to the life of a person remembering?  These may seem like abstract questions, but they have a very practical reality when planning for a memorial museum – an institution that is responsible for extending memory past the lifespan of the victims.  The process of translating memory into exhibitions is increasingly subject to academic study, and different approaches are increasingly compared by scholars and museum planners.  They are trying to figure out what is specific to the process of exhibition-making in each museum, and what can be generalized from a look at numerous case studies.

At 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 21, I’ll will discuss two  examples of exhibition making: at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.  The first museum commemorates an event that, as we know, is not even ten years past, and I've been involved as senior program advisor, working on exhibitions and public programs.  The second museum focuses on an event more than six decades old, and I curated an art collection there that explores the influence of the Holocaust on contemporary memory.

Thinking of the two museums, I’m particularly interested in how this disparity in distance from the focal event changes the approach of exhibition-makers.  Since I’ve had the privilege of being involved with both efforts, I'm looking forward to discussing them with a group of colleagues.

The seminar is part of a three-year study of Memory and Memorialization, which is funded by the French Embassy in Washington.  Four partner institutions – two museums and two research centers – have been hosting regular seminar and conference sessions to bring different disciplines to a common table:  the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Le Memorial de Caen, NYU and the CNRS, France’s national research center.

The meeting will be held at NYU, 4 Washington Square North, second floor. Join us for the discussion.

Separately, I'm the host of the exclusive webcast series that explores the world before and after 9/11.  Please visit an share in the discussion.

By Clifford Chanin, Sr. Program Advisor for the 9/11 Memorial Museum