Prosthetic memory and post-memory: cultural encounters with the past in designing a museum
This paper1 investigates the sources of representations on the communist period and the type of engagement with the past in an experiential museum, in the context of the National Network of Romanian Museums’ project for a laboratory-museum of Romanian Communism. Our analysis of focus-groups in October-November 2012 explores the public’s expectations in terms of museum experience and engagement with objects and the potential of an experiential museum to facilitate deliberation about the past. We use the conceptual framework of recent studies on postmemory (Hirsch, 2008) and prosthetic memory (Landsberg, 2004, 2009) to focus on ways of building the experiential archive needed to produce prosthetic memory. We consider that such an analysis is relevant for two interconnected problems: the bidirectional relationship between a projected museum of communism and a prospective public, and the methodological insights available for investigating this relation. With regard to the first problem, this paper makes a case for treating museums as a memory device rather than a lieu de memoire and analyses the role of the museum in relation to cultural memory. With regard to the second problem, it offers an example of conducting research on prospective publics which departs from traditional marketing approaches, adopting theoretical insights and analytical categories from specific conceptualizations in the field of memory studies.
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