By visiting history museums, people gain knowledge about particular periods, personalities, civilizations, or events in the history of humanity. In this paper, I will evaluate the National Museum of the American Indian and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. These places focus on different epochs and messages, but they both draw visitors’ attention to some of the tragic episodes in the histories of the two peoples. It is noteworthy that the museums are characterized by different approaches to telling stories, which has an impact on the way an individual can feel during and after a visit.
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The goal of the National Museum of the American Indian is to raise people’s awareness of Native Americans. The explicit theme of the museum and its major exposition is educational, while the implicit message is the lack of knowledge and understanding of who American Indians were centuries and decades ago and who they are now. The subject matter of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is clear from its name. The museum is concerned with the genocide that took place during the Second World War. The explicit theme is the horror of that period, while the implicit message is aimed at young people, who are encouraged to make sure that such a massacre will never be repeated.
The intended audience of both museums is very broad, as people of all ages, races, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses can learn a lot from the experience. The exhibitions are also meant to bring different people together to ensure communication and interaction. These are the major similarities between the two venues. There are numerous differences, especially when it comes to the way the subject and themes are conveyed.
The National Museum of the American Indian is very bright and open. The artifacts include tools, clothes, and religious items, as well as music, photographs, and written texts displaying the life of American Indians of the past and the present. Visitors can engage in hands-on activities and even try foods or buy souvenirs. The atmosphere in the museum is light and festive, which helps people see the most positive aspects of the indigenous peoples’ history.
However, the darkest elements seem to have been omitted, which makes the museum only partially effective in conveying its major theme. The positive approach can be explained by its focus on children, whose emotions should be spared.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is dark and grim, just as the concentration camps were. Narrow corridors, interactive models of gas chambers, beds where people had to sleep, and even a train used for transporting people help visitors to visualize, feel, and even smell the tragic history of the Jewish people. At the start of the journey, each visitor is given an identity with a complete story, which helps people to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of a concentration camp or ghetto. Photographs, videos, written texts, and people’s belongings bring the memories of genocide back to life. The atmosphere they create makes the museum effective in conveying its major themes, as people cannot but reflect on the horrors of the war and the Holocaust.
In conclusion, I would like to note that I am not Jewish or Native American, so I do not have personal connections to the events on display. My cultural background meant that I gained a new perspective on the history of different peoples who were faced with different issues. One of the most striking aspects of the museum experience for me was the display of the conditions in which Jewish people had to live. Complete dehumanization and horrible slaughter were two things to be remembered, and the museum helps people never to forget.
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