The Globalized Memorial Museums Project (GMM) and Japan

The 10th International Conference of Museums for Peace

Title: The Globalized Memorial Museums Project (GMM) and Japan

Author: Frauke Kempka, André Hertrich
Austrian Academy of Sciences (Vienna)

Abstract: The European Research Council (ERC)-funded project 'Globalized Memorial Museums' (GMM) is based in Vienna. It examines about 50 memorial museums around the world dealing with WWII and/or recent genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Much has been written about the ostensible ‘globalization of memory’ and upon first glance memorial museums in places as far apart as Jerusalem, Hiroshima, Kigali and Budapest seem to share a common or at least similar language of exhibition aesthetics. Relying on the use of light and darkness, presenting lists of names, personalized historical photographs and human remains, memorials all over the world narrate the fates of individuals. Using this formalized aesthetics and highlighting the human individual with their personal biographies, the experiences of atrocities may become more easily relatable regardless of the visitors' background.

However, looking closer at the exhibitions, the differences are obvious. Individual experiences may be presented in a similar way across continents and national borders, still the messages that exhibitions are striving to bring across or trying to suppress could hardly be any more diverse. In our presentation we will relate preliminary findings from European museums and use these to outline our questions on museums in Japan, where we just started our research.