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Title: Between evidence and symbol : the Auschwitz album in Yad Vashem, the Imperial War Museum (London) and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Author: Ashworth, Jaime
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2011
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This project explores the representation of the Holocaust in three museums: Yad Vashem in Jerusalem; the Imperial War Museum in London; and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, Poland. It uses the so-called Auschwitz Album, a collection of photographs taken in Birkenau in May 1944, as a case-study. Employing the concept of mythology in the Barthesian sense of a ‘language in which we speak’, it examines the ways in which the Holocaust is more and more a prism through which other things are viewed; a language in which other things are spoken of. Chapters 1 and 2 lay the groundwork for the results of fieldwork described in chapters 3-5. Chapter 1 is concerned with the photographs themselves. Describing the structure and content of the collection, it demonstrates the degree to which the interpretation of photographs is complicated by what the viewer brings to them. While photographs might appear to transmit information, this chapter suggests that they are better understood as reflective objects. Chapter 2 interrogates the assumptions of five “classic” accounts of the Holocaust by Raul Hilberg, Helmut Krausnick, Lucy Dawidowicz, Martin Gilbert and Saul Friedländer, in light of a proposed ‘Holocaust metanarrative’. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 engage with the particular museums on their own terms, posing questions about how they interact with the societies they are found in. Each museum, these chapters argue, raises a set of questions about the host nation’s relationship with the past. Chapter 6 looks at the specific display strategies employed by the museums to display the Auschwitz Album, considers how this relates to the broader institutional and national agendas as explored in Chapters 3-5. An epilogue takes the basic conclusion of this section – that all memory is local, and that debate about meaning is likely to be the continuing legacy – and asks if there is an alternative language in which to speak of the Holocaust.
Supervisor: Reiter, Andrea ; Schloer, Joachim Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: NB Sculpture