Exhibiting Negative Feelings: Writing a History of Emotions in German History Museums

Chloe Paver


This article moves beyond recent work on visitor emotions to ask: How are the
emotions of past eras (and more particularly of twentieth-century Germany)
historicized in history exhibitions? How can the academic field of the history of
emotions – which, in Germany, has been galvanized by the study of National
Socialism and its legacies – make the transition from the written investigations
of historical scholarship to the multi-modal displays of public history? These
questions are of particular relevance to German exhibitions about communist East
Germany and its collapse because emotions are understood to be a key field of
contestation in this recent period of German history. Using exhibitions about East
Germany as source material, the article considers how academic disciplines and
the institution of the museum constitute emotions as discursive objects.
Key words: East Germany / German Unification / National Socialism / Emotions

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Copyright (c) 2017 Chloe Paver

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360