Everyday Life in the Ancient World: Four Re-Collections
The thesis is made up of four separate but related texts recording the author’s investigations of loss, searches and re-constructions. Questions of ownership are also examined, with particular reference to objects of cultural and artistic significance. The Holocaust is a major focus, especially attitudes of the New Zealand government and New Zealanders themselves to the refugees who wished to settle here before and after World War II. The thesis is a hybrid of critical and creative writing. The first three texts, “The autobiographical museum”, “History-making” and “Cairn”, are also hybrid in genre, containing found text, new prose and poems, discussion of other writers’ work and the author’s experiments in ‘active reading’. The fourth text is an Index which offers an alternative reading of the other three texts and helps the reader to locate material. While somewhat different from each other in form, all texts focus on the activity of gathering objects and information. All four texts are fragmented rather than complete. Interviews with curators, education officers and CEOs in two Australian museums that have Holocaust exhibits provided information on the aims and processes of these exhibits. Meetings with six Holocaust survivors who act as volunteer guides in museums and reactions of visitors to the museums provided other perspectives on the work of the museums. The author also reports on visits to the Holocaust Gallery at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand in Wellington. Activity Theory, a cultural-historical model often applied to the analysis of learning and pedagogy, is used in the thesis as a metaphorical backdrop to the author’s own activity. The author’s focus on intentions, tools, processes, division of labour and financial pressures reflects the influence of Activity Theory as does the author’s willingness to let understanding take shape gradually through tentative conclusions, some of which are later overturned. Over the period of the research, records of the past are recovered and re-examined in the present, as was intended. Individual and collective memory, including archival records, fiction and poetry are resources for these investigations. The author receives an object lesson in the power of the informal networking role of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, as well as benefiting from its formal displays and materials. During the research the author writes records of the present because it seems necessary to do so. By the time the research ends, these have become records of the past – an outcome which Emanuel Ringelblum would have predicted but was a surprise to the author.