'Set in Stone? Trust and Authenticity in Memorials and Museums'

Luther College hosts Paideia Texts and Issues lecture by Nancy Gates Madsen and Lea Lovelace
How might trust in memorials and museums mislead the public about a traumatic past? Luther College professors Nancy Gates Madsen and Lea Lovelace explore this question in their lecture, "Set in Stone? Trust and Authenticity in Memorials and Museums," at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, in the Recital Hall of the Center for Faith and Life on the Luther campus.

The lecture is open to the public with no charge for admission.

As purveyors of official knowledge, museums and memorials are designed to inspire trust. Visitors who walk through an exhibit or visit a site of memory trust that they will receive an authentic, meaningful experience about a particular place or historical event; these locations represent a type of official history and are—in some cases literally—set in stone.

When these places or events are connected to past trauma or "dark tourism," such as former concentration camps or museums about atrocity, the stakes to provide an accurate portrayal of events prove very high. Given that the living memory of those who suffered these historical traumas is fading, trusting the narratives of these official sites grows in importance.

The lecture explores complicated issues surrounding memorials to past atrocity through three case studies: Holocaust memorial museums, the Parque de la Memoria (Memory Park) in Argentina, and the Nanjing Massacre Museum. A close look at these museums and memorials reveals how curatorial and design choices, along with the desire to create authenticity, may unwittingly mislead the public or betray the truth of a traumatic past.

This year's Paideia Texts and Issues theme, "Who Do You Trust," was developed by the Paideia Endowment Governing Board, the Religion department and the Visual and Performing Arts department. Drawing from a wide variety of texts from the arts, sciences and humanities, the series attempts to facilitate discussions of personal and institutional trust. Who or what are people predisposed to trust? Is trust a fundamental element of character, community or culture? What are the results of mistrust or betrayal?

Gates Madsen is an associate professor of Spanish at Luther and the author of "Trauma, Taboo, and Truth Telling: Listening to Silences in Postdictatorship Argentina." Her current research explores the intersections between environmental issues and human rights.

Lovelace is a member of Luther’s adjunct faculty in the Visual and Performing Arts Department and has co-lead three J-term experiences abroad exploring dark tourism. Prior to teaching at Luther, Lovelace spent 10 years working in the field of museum education, researching and implementing best practices for helping visitors make meaning.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,150, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the bachelor of arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.

Lea Lovelace
Nancy Gates Madsen