Sites of memory: Discourses of the past in Israeli pioneering settlement museums

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Heritage museums as sites of cultural production are explored in terms of the distinction drawn by historians between "memory" and "history," which denotes fundamentally opposed orientations towards the past. The discursive practices employed by museum guides in orally mediating the material displays in Israeli settlement museums are examined in relation to this distinction, suggesting the need to develop a more nuanced view of the relationship between "history" and "memory" as dialectically defined orientations to the past, which combine ritual enactment and critical reflection in contexts of collective remembering. Strategies identified in museum interpretation include the use of a rhetoric of factuality, the narrative appropriation of objects, and the establishment of an indexical relationship between the museum’s "master-narrative" and its localized "object stories." Some implications are discussed for exploring culturally focal "sites of memory" as part of a critically oriented, auto-ethnography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
TamarKatrielisAssociateProfessorintheSchoolofEducation attheUniversityofHaifa, Israel.Thisarticleis part of a larger study exploring the discourse of heritage museums in Israel. Various aspects of the larger project have been addressed at the Israel Sociological Society Meeting, Haifa, February 1992; ICA, Miami, May 1992; The Getty Institute for the History of the Arts and Humanities lecture series, Santa Monica, June 1992; Ethnography of Communication Conference, Portland, August 1992; Annual Meeting of the American Ethnological Society, Santa Fe, April 1993. This research was supported by The Basic Research Foundation Administered by The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The overall features and rationale for this project, but neither the conceptual exploration nor the empirical data presented here, are discussed in a short essayentitled "Our Future is Where Our Past Is: Studying Heritage Museums as Ideological and Performative Arenas," Communication Monographs, (1993). The author is grateful to Rivki Ribak and two anonymous reviewersfor helpful comments on an earlier version of the present paper.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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