A Place for Imagery in Composing Histories: Available Means of Memory at the Gettysburg Museum

A Place for Imagery in Composing Histories: Available Means of Memory at the Gettysburg Museum

Megan Brenneman (Kent State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2808-1.ch007
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This chapter discusses the affordances and constraints for the visual modes of meaning making at the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War. The past is remembered in terms of available memory tools, which effectively shape an understanding of history when carefully presented with context to an audience. Visual imagery at the museum presents material in ways that other modes cannot; however, it is dependent on other modes to set proper context during the audience's meaning making process. The museum at Gettysburg relies heavily upon visual modes to compose Civil War histories. The multimodalities (visuals, objects, texts) work synchronously as fragmented pieces of history to create a more whole understanding for the audience.
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Reading The Museum

Museums are interactive sites for learning that transcend the teacher-student hierarchical model of learning and allow for a sense of self-guidance not found in the traditional classroom. Schwartz (2008) argues that museums are “one of the foremost sites for teaching and learning by visual means” (p. 27). Museumgoers can interact with museum content and discover as much or as little as they feel. Students learn how to “read” museums, how to compose through the available, multimodal means. Museum-based approaches to visual literacy education, as discussed by Schwartz, “examines how objects interact with their physical setting to form persuasive arguments that are primarily visual” (p. 34). Through the consideration of how the museum transfers these messages to audience rather than what these messages are, students may begin to understand how multiple modes (visual, textual, spatial, object) work together to create meaning.

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