Journal of Conservation &
Museum Studies
No. 7, November 2001


Andrew Whitmarsh

MA in Museum Studies, 2000
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, United Kingdom


David Lowenthal has observed that in today's museums, "nothing seems too horrendous to commemorate." Yet museums frequently portray a sanitised version of warfare. The twentieth century saw the development of commemorative traditions: customs and narratives by which individuals, groups and nations remember, commemorate and attempt to resolve memories of the traumatic experience that is war. These conventions often also govern museum interpretation of war. This dissertation examines the representation of war in two very different museums: Britain's national Imperial War Museum, and the regional In Flanders Fields Museum at Ypres, Belgium. The Imperial War Museum tends to follow established commemorative traditions. In its recently-opened Holocaust exhibition, however, it has made use of a different style of commemoration. In Flanders Fields has consciously attempted to avoid traditional forms of commemoration, which could be seen as glamorising or sanitising war. This museum focuses on the experiences of individual soldiers of all nations, and tells visitors that they must learn from the First World War to work for peace. Full text PDF

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The methods, techniques, and conclusions found in individual papers are the work and responsibility of the author of the paper, and should in no way be thought to represent the opinion or endorsement of either the Journal of Conservation & Museum Studies, the Institute of Archaeology, or University College London. No liability or contract is accepted or implied by the publication of these data.


Copyright © Andrew Whitmarsh, 2000. All rights reserved.