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ERIC Number: EJ975603
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-May
Pages: 20
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0994
Synecdochic Memory at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Bernard-Donals, Michael
College English, v74 n5 p417-436 May 2012
On the third floor of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in Washington, D.C., inside a glass case, lie thousands of shoes. Old and mismatched, moldering after sixty years, they are what remains of countless Jews who were told to disrobe and who were subsequently murdered at Majdanek, Poland, during the final years of the Holocaust. Of the objects collected for display by the designers of USHMM, they are among the most powerful icons of the destruction commemorated at the museum, and they were chosen specifically to provide museum visitors the opportunity to identify with those who were destroyed, and to learn something about the events of the Holocaust, events that for most visitors, occurred before they were born. In this essay, the author argues that although the designers of USHMM relied--as do designers of museums more generally--on a metonymic sense of history, in which objects, images, and artifacts (the detritus of history) stand in for and represent the object of history, objects on exhibit in the USHMM also function as synecdoches, establishing a part-to-part relation that ultimately defers their connection to the historical past. Potentially, this latter relation undermines the historical authenticity that museum-goers seem to seek, and which the USHMM designers wished to inculcate. (Contains 6 notes.)
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: District of Columbia; Poland