Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific (CHCAP) seminar, Melbourne

Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific (CHCAP) seminar, Melbourne

The next CHCAP seminar at Deakin University will be a presentation by Dr Steven Cooke, Deakin University, on “Before Eichmann: Holocaust exhibitions and the ‘myth of silence’”.


Much recent work in the historiography of the Holocaust has challenged the ‘myth of silence’, the supposed post-war reticence of Holocaust survivors to speak about their traumatic experiences. A major focus of this work has been on examining the ‘sheer volume of talking, recording, writing, representation in various media, and publishing’ that went on in the two decades after the Second World War (Cesarani and Sundquist 2011: 10). However, little work to date has explored museum displays for what they can add to the reappraisal of this period.

This paper examines the origins, development and reception of two temporary exhibitions held in 1961; one in Melbourne, one in London, which both have as their focus the Warsaw Ghetto. Within the context of recent discussions on the role of emotion and affect in the engagement between museum exhibitions and viewer as a way to develop more collaborative and emancipatory museum practice, it explores the politics and poetics of the displays, particularly the use of photographs in the London exhibition, influenced by ideas of the ‘democratic surround’ pioneered by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Turner 2013) and the role of survivors in the Melbourne exhibition. Through this I argue that the displays presaged more recent debates about exhibitions as affective spaces in an attempt to effect political and social change. It shows how representations of the Holocaust were shaped by both local concerns and an emerging global network of information, artefacts, people, and institutions involved in remembrance which adds to the nuanced reading that unsettles the established narratives of the development of post-war Holocaust memory in the UK and Australia.


Dr Steven Cooke is a cultural and historical geographer who has published widely on issues relating to the memorial landscapes of war and genocide, museums and national identity and maritime heritage and urban redevelopment. On arriving in Australia in 2002, he worked in the heritage sector for a number of years before moving to the Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific at Deakin University in February 2011. He is Course Director for the Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies programs at Deakin, and also an Honorary Research Fellow at Winchester University, UK.

Date: Wednesday 29 October 2014

Time: 5.30pm

Venue: Meeting Room 3, Deakin Prime, City Campus, 3/550 Bourke Street, Melbourne

DINNER: The seminar will be followed by dinner around 7.00 pm at a nearby restaurant. Please RSVP to Yamini Narayanan<> by email for dinner booking.

Email list: To be included in the CHCAP email newsletter distribution list, email Yamini Narayanan<>

FINAL 2014 CHCAP SEMINAR (26 November 2014):

  *   “The Historic Urban Landscape Approach: Finding a better way to manage change in the regional historic city of Ballarat”, Susan Fayad, Coordinator Heritage Strategy, City of Ballarat

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