Smithsonian Website- History & Memory

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Analyse and evaluate how the Smithsonian National Museum of American History September 11 Website and ONE related text of your choosing represent history and memory in unique and evocative ways

Good Morning teachers and students, my name is Lala Smith, and I’d like to share and address to you my own personal understanding as both a composer and responder, of history, memory and their representations. Standing here before you, I will elaborate further into the relationship of both factors and explore the plethora of challenges that the linkage presents with the inclusion of two examples. It’s true what they say you know… there are three sides to a story… history, memory and the truth.

Due to the fact that we are traditionally and culturally led to believe that history is, at its best, an unbiased account of truth and the past, we as people determine it as inflexible and objective collection of documented accounts and evidence. Represented as evidential sources that are reliable, history has however been challenged and questioned, as it is now a result of choice and preconceived outcomes. History records the big events; memory fills in the spaces and tells us, what the event was like. Granting personal perspectives that may possibly be a flawed interpretation of events, memory is evidence that can be distorted by emotions, influenced by suggestion and interpreted differently in terms of context. Triggered by small incidents, waves of sounds or connected to physical objects, memory is a process that can be recalled and kept in mind. Amongst the many texts that significantly display and contribute to increasing the difficulties in distinguishing the two, the American Smithsonian 9/11 Website & the Sydney Jewish Museum is relevantly the most intriguing.

Exhibiting, memorialising and remembering the victims who perished in result of the tragic and emotionally charged events that affected the world, both the website and museum evoke and emerge emotional responses uniquely in terms of its constructiveness, its raw evidence, its language, its ability to share a sense of familiarity with their viewers and visitors and of course their set perceptions that purposely shape the audience’s views, opinions and understandings through the representation of its selected texts, images, stories and objects.

Observing all sections of the website, viewers will find numerous images & visuals as well as aural representations of objects & evidences of the attack. With these sections aside, language is indeed the most used feature of the site. Showing 20,000 different stories that are written by witnesses in a plain conversational style without constant use of language devices, the site elaborates their stories with no exaggeration & no figurative manner. With the use of colloquial language and everyday expressions such as ‘strangers and friends alike- we were all in this together’ (story #455) and ‘day by day’ (story #435) which authenticate the stories & experiences, it evokes a response from the audience due to the honesty of the accounts and the reality of the event. Dealing with the intensity of the event & the shocking atmosphere, ‘Lisa’, a worker of St Vincent Hospital (story #435), broke down with tears in her eyes & questions on her mind. ‘How could this happen? Who would do such a thing?’ having no knowledge in the cause, it also implies the American blindness. Paying attention to the outcomes & circumstances of the event, no attention is paid specifically towards the cause. The language devices spark the questions that are now still left unanswered. However, it is clear that the use of colloquial language did create significant meaning and was purposeful as it did allow viewers to relate more comfortably with the text & enabled them to question themselves also… why did this happen? Ask yourselves.

By using visual, audible and written techniques, the September 11 website effectively presents a biased view of personal...
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