Webinar: Ypres and Hiroshima: Eye-Witness Testimony, Transnational Memory and Memorialisation Practices

Back in December I attended an excellent webinar on the topic “Ypres and Hiroshima: Eye-Witness Testimony, Transnational Memory and Memorialisation Practices”. The webinar was part of The Global Language-Based Area Studies research theme within the School of Modern Languages at Cardiff University. In the webinar there were two speakers – second year PhD students, Andrew Mooney and Lauren Constance. Both speakers pointed to important developments in commemorative practices and on the challenges facing museums as they seek to connect with visitors.

The reason for the post now is that the webinar has recently been uploaded to YouTube

Paper 1: Transnational Memory: Shaping British Tourist Experiences in Ypres

The concept of ‘transnational memory’ has emerged to be the main feature of the ‘third phase’ of memory studies. This has come with a shift of focus from the static notions of remembrance at memorial sites to the nuanced understanding of ‘relational conceptualisations of place and space’ (Wüstenberg 2019, p.374). The understanding of transnational memory is key to the visitor experience, especially at sites such as those in and around Ypres where national monuments are often found in close proximity to those of other nations and are being visited by tourists from across the globe. Throughout the twentieth-century Ypres has been a melting pot for commemoration and remembrance from Belgian, French, German, British and other Commonwealth tourists, their personal, national and familial memories. As such, any British memorial does not exist in a vacuum. Not only are these interactions between tourists and national memorials framed by the space that they are in, but visitors are exposed to the memorials established by nations other than their own and their unique cultures of remembrance. This all shapes the tourist experience, suggesting a more complex series of interactions between British tourists and their surroundings than may have been previously realised. This concept lines up well with the cosmopolitan approach to Great War remembrance that has been favoured in Western Europe in recent years. However, in Britain, Euroscepticism has risen in that same time frame, and Andrew Mooney’s project aims to shed light on how this tension affects British visitor experiences in Ypres.

Andrew Mooney is a second-year postgraduate researcher in Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages. His research focuses on British tourists’ experiences in Ypres, Belgium and the juxtaposition between the growth of Euro-scepticism in Britain and an increasingly cosmopolitan and ‘trans-national’ commemorative atmosphere surrounding the Great War in continental Western Europe.

Paper 2: Eyewitness testimony in Japanese Memorial Museums

The bombing of Hiroshima over 75 years ago was the first time nuclear weapons had been used in warfare. The impact of the bomb was devastating and continues to affect people today. As an unprecedented event in human history, the bombing continues to be memorialised, in anniversaries, commemorations and in museums. However, eyewitnesses to historical events, such as the Hiroshima bombing, are passing away, and with them their personal insights into the past. Although researchers such as de Jong (2018) have argued that in the digital era, eyewitness video testimonies are a staple of memorial museums, this may not be the case in Japan. This paper therefore addresses the issue of memorialisation of eyewitness testimonies in Japanese museums. In her previous research, Lauren Constance has looked at how video testimony is used in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. However, in her current research, the number and different types of museums will be increased for a broader analysis of memorialisation practices in museums across Japan. Therefore, her overarching research question is: ‘How do memorial museums exhibit eyewitness testimony in Japan?’. Through online research and fieldwork visits to different Japanese museums, she will analyse how these institutions exhibit video testimony and explore variations in their practices. In this paper, Lauren summarised the key findings of her Literature Review and discuss some examples of the museum case studies which she is currently investigating.

Lauren (WordPress, Twitter) is a second year PhD student at Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages. Her supervisors are Dr Ruselle Meade and myself.

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