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date: 18 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

As long as American public historians have been celebrating the idea that museums and historic sites can play a central role in civic life, they have agonized over how this can happen. But in other parts of the world, public histories have emerged as inextricable parts of larger civic projects. Each has developed a different definition of “dialogue,” reflecting different understandings of what democracy looks like. This paper explores three different visions of dialogue that evolved in different national contexts to support different visions of democracy: promoting public discussion of long-suppressed truths; integrating multiple narratives; and dialogue as a model of democratic engagement. Examples include Sites of Conscience like Memoria Abierta in Argentina, the District Six Museum and Constitution Hill in South Africa, and the Gulag Museum in Russia. The chapter concludes with reflections from the first stages of an experiment in international public history, the Guantánamo Public Memory Project.

Keywords: dialogue, public memory, civic engagement, public history, Guantánamo, Memoria Abierta, District Six Museum, Constitution Hill, Gulag Museum, Sites of Conscience

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