The Religion & Culture Web Forum
Religion and Museums on the National Mall
In this issue, Elizabeth McKeown considers the many ways that the study of religion intersects with the study and practice of museums, looking at two relatively recent additions to the collection of museums in Washington, D.C.:
Both museums… engage in the language of the sacred. At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, that discourse is muted, acting as background rather than as marquee. The sacred is performed in the pilgrimages undertaken by visitors and invoked when matters of placement arise—as in the case of human remains, when the sacred works to put things out of bounds and off-limits—in “limbo” in a storage facility in Maryland, as with the nine kilos of human hair. At the National Museum of the American Indian, the sacred is central to the enterprise in a much more programmatic and self-conscious way, but in both places, its use is challenging and complex.