While critiques of gender exclusion in the museum have tended to concentrate on museums of 19th-century foundation, this paper considers a body of contemporary exhibitions, mounted in Germany to explain diverse aspects of National Socialism. The lack of concern for gender issues in most such exhibitions is explained, prima facie, by their preoccupation with a much more pressing concern: the crimes of a genocidal dictatorship. The peculiar gender co-ordinates of the era under exhibition – on the one hand its stark polarisation of gender roles, on the other its effacement of gender difference in mass murder – may also seem to militate against a gender-sensitive approach to the material. Nevertheless, it makes little sense to exempt exhibitions about National Socialism from the duty of all museum work routinely to unpick gender categories. In particular, the widespread use of photographs as documents in historical exhibitions demands of curators that they assist visitors in understanding how photographs shape reality. The visibility or invisibility of women in photographs from National Socialist Germany may have been constructed in various ways—by social conventions, by the photographer, by the archivist, by the curator—but in the absence of guidance visitors are likely to view photographs as documents of an objective reality. The paper suggests ways in which such exhibitions might make gender issues accessible to the visitor without losing sight of the main goal of educating visitors about National Socialist crimes.
|Keywords:||Exhibition Practice, National Socialism, Holocaust, Gender, Germany, Photography, Feminist Museology, Feminist Historiography|
Senior Lecturer in German, School of Arts, Languages and Literatures, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
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