Past trauma, present action

The world’s genocide museums successfully ensure that we never forget history’s most horrific events. But these institutions can do so much more, we concluded in our work with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Specifically, genocide museums can build a movement from visitors who are sufficiently touched by their experiences to incorporate lessons into their own lives. If enough visitors are transformed, the resulting movement would be an unprecedented force for good and a breakwall against future atrocities.

“The experience of the Holocaust could ultimately help people to make sense of what is going on in other conflict situations,” said former U.S. congressman Toby Moffett, who collaborated with us on the project. “To be a fountain of know-how and information and technical assistance, while at the same time not relinquishing the main idea of the Holocaust as history’s greatest case study – I think it’s very exciting.”

This work informed our later work in Rwanda, in which we explored alterations of the museum experience that could produce transformed visitors.