Art History



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


Victoria Young

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Kindall

Third Advisor

Jayme Yahr


Through the lens of memory theory, I examine how architecture at two memorial
museums, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York and the
Museum of the Second World War in Poland, conveys an understanding of institutional memory tied to the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and World War II, respectively. I consider with each the role of site, institutional memory approach, and the classification of being a memorial museum. While there is a great difference between a stand-alone memorial and a combined memorial museum, I believe that there is also great overlap in their motivations, obstacles, and outcomes. In my research, I define memorial museums as having a very specific purpose: to memorialize and to educate. I ground my definition in the research of Paul Williams. In his chapter, “The Personalization of Loss in Memorial Museums” (2017), he defines memorial museums as public spaces that are committed to the commemoration and interpretation of violence against people. This includes genocides, crimes against humanity, and terrorism. Memorial museums are twofold, according to Williams, as they simultaneously commemorate a tragedy while also providing context and explanation. Through my research I have discovered that authenticity of site matters for a memorial museum and it is a home nation’s government that has the largest effect on the site’s institutional memory approach. Finally, the classification of being a memorial museum is a daunting title and ultimately, we see these two sites embody the role through decisions in site, memory, and interpretation.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.