Art History



Degree Name

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

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


Victoria Young

Second Advisor

Craig Eliason

Third Advisor

Amy Mickelson


The Anne Frank House opened as a museum in 1960 and since that time it has welcomed millions of visitors. Today, the museum has been renovated to occupy a large portion of the city block that it sits on, having significantly outgrown the space at Prinsengracht 263, which contained the secret annex where Anne and others hid and Otto Frank’s Opekta company. The centerpiece of the museum, the secret annex, remains largely empty and devoid of objects while the former Opekta space have been renovated to be more consistent with its wartime appearance. How does an almost empty building become a place that attracts over a million people annually? How has it become a major site of Holocaust memory, a place that inspires intense emotions from those that visit it? Several scholars have pointed out that the Anne Frank House functions as a memorial site, a museum, a place of learning about ideals that were important to Anne, a memorial museum and as a literary journey for those who admire Anne’s diary. However, scholars have not explored how the Anne Frank House became the memorial museum that it is today and how it functions as a memorial museum. I find that it was Otto Frank’s insistence on leaving the secret annex empty forces the visitor to engage with emptiness and loss. It is this focus that has turned the secret annex into a memorial site and his work with the Anne Frank Stichting turned the Anne Frank House into an early example of a memorial museum.

Creative Commons License

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