In the elective, History and Memory, you will consider the prescribed Multimedia text: September 11: Bearing Witness to History and other texts which explore the relationships between individual memory and documented events. As the set text is an online exhibition, content on the webpage MAY change. BEFORE undertaking the unit of study for this elective, check the Official Notices via the NSW Board of Studies’ Website for notifications of any updates to the web address. You can be assured that your viewing of the website at the time of study remains an acceptable version in the HSC examination. If any changes to the site are made subsequent to your studies, either version is acceptable.
At the time of writing, the set text for this module of study is: Smithsonian National Museum of American History September 11 as published in the Official Notice BOS 29/11 .
Additional support of a more general nature is available through http://studentsonline.bos.nsw.edu.au
In order to critically examine the historical function of the website, you need to be clear as to what event the website is addressing. The title of the webpage places the words ‘September 11’ as a first row and the same words are repeated on the left-hand contents navigation panel. A cursory glance would suggest the focus of the webpage is September 11, 2001. You should take care and recognise the website and its title webpage is an exhibit of the 10th anniversary of the attacks, 2011.
This module requires you to analyse and evaluate the roles of medium, composition and ownership, perspective and language in the interplay of personal experience, memory and documented evidence. You are to ultimately show your understanding of how history, cultural history and personal memory are shaped and represented.
Consider the two simplified definitions below:
HISTORY: Documented evidence of past events.
MEMORY: Personal recollections of the past.
The term history is contentious. The purpose of Activity 1 was to expose the conceptual nature of history. Consider, for example, the function of history: is it to describe and contextualise events (sometimes called a teleological approach as put forward by philosophers Herder, Hegel and Foucault); or is to explain and interpret those events (the hermeneutic approach as defined by Sherratt and Ricoeur)?
Memory, like history, is also contentious. Memory may be defined as ‘a cognitive (brain) process of recall’, yet this does not explain the individual’s ability (or inability) to remember, interpret and interact with past events. Nor does it completely satisfy the role of context. Consider how one person can remember an event that is different to another person’s recall. This need not only apply at an individual level, consider how one group can remember a single event differently to another group. (Umpiring decisions on the sporting field may be remembered by one group of supporters very differently to the memory of the opposing group of supporters.) Memory must therefore also be considered as a concept, allowing for individual and collective interpretation, selectivity, significance, opinion, bias and emotional response.
What is important within this module is that history and memory form a relationship within the texts. Thus, the historical process, whether it be a teleological or hermeneutic approach or both, can seek to collect and utilise personal and cultural memory. Similarly, this process can influence personal and cultural recollection.
The key to understanding and engaging with this module is representation. Look closely at the rubric for this module in the HSC exam, especially the first dot-point:
In your answer you will be assessed on how well you:
The focus of this module is to evaluate how history and memory are represented and how this representation utilises and influences the concepts of history and memory. To put it another way: students completing Module C: Elective 2: History and Memory are to focus on the texts and their relationship to the reader/viewer/listener.
Before you look into the Smithsonian’s website, what do you already know about September 11, 2001? Consider each of the following images and complete the activities below.
|Image 1.||Image 2.|
|By Hankplan||By Cliff 1066|
|Image 3.||Image 4.|
|By Wiskeygonebad||By Turtlemom|
Entering the words ‘September 11’ into a popular search engine reveals literally hundreds of millions of sites.
|September 11 Web search|
|Immediate (domestic) response in the US||
|Long-term effects in the US||
|Long term effects internationally|
|Terms used to describe the events of September 11|
Look carefully at the title webpage. Students familiar with multi-modal texts should immediately be able to identify many of the standard features of a webpage, including:
You may be less familiar with some of the specific features of the titlepage. The diagram of the wire frame below outlines many of the features and layout of the page. You should familiarise yourself with these features as they become a means by which you refer to specific representations in your extended response for the HSC.
It is also important to consider what is NOT included in the exhibition’s title webpage. You may have noticed a lack of banners, deliverables, motionables and sounds and even an absence of theme, wallpaper and multiple fonts and sizes.
An interesting exercise is to compare the September 11 exhibit title webpage with the overall title webpage of the National Museum of American History. You will immediately notice the lack of padding and white space in the museum’s title webpage. The overall impression of the September 11 exhibit page is one of austerity in its layout and features. This impression is indicative of the serious, significant and possibly revered nature of the exhibit and its content. It is through the title webpage that the tone and purpose of the website is established. To quote the page itself: “To commemorate the tenth anniversary of September 11…”
Is the Smithsonian titlepage: http://americanhistory.si.edu/september11/ an exhibit or a memorial? Justify your answer in relation to the titlepage features and layout as outlined in the text’s wireframe.
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian acknowledges itself as being the world's largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park, all based within the United States. ( http://www.si.edu/About )
The Smithsonian’s vision and mission statements are outlined below:
The increase and diffusion of knowledge
Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world
Discovery: Explore and bring to light new knowledge and ideas, and better ways of doing business
Creativity: Instill our work with imagination and innovation
Excellence: Deliver the highest-quality products and services in all endeavors
Diversity: Capitalize on the richness inherent in differences
Integrity: Carry out all our work with the greatest responsibility and accountability
Service: Be of benefit to the public and our stakeholders
The Smithsonian Institution received its name from its founder, a British scientist – James Smithson (1765-1829) – who left his considerable estate to the Unites States of America, to found:
…at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. (A draft version of a transcript of Smithson's 1826 may be viewed at the Smithsonian Institution's website.)
The Smithsonian’s website also contains the following message:
Visitors can pay homage to Smithson with a visit to his crypt, located on the first floor of the Smithsonian Castle. (Smithsonian Institution Website, http://www.si.edu/About/History)
The invitation to ‘pay homage’ is significant in its use of language more often used for religious reverence, and is indicative both of the importance the Smithsonian institute holds for itself and the institute’s willingness to memorialise significant events and people in American history.
The National Museum of American History is the specific publishing organisation that has created and houses the online exhibit: September 11 Bearing witness to history.
Read through the museum's own account of its 'History' and 'Mission':
The National Museum of American History opened to the public in January 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology. It was the sixth Smithsonian building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Since then, some 4 million visitors a year have passed through the doors to enjoy the Museum’s exhibitions, public programs, educational activities, collections, and research facilities. Millions more make virtual visits to the Museum’s Web site.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History dedicates its collections and scholarship to inspiring a broader understanding of our nation and its many peoples. We create opportunities for learning, stimulate imaginations, and present challenging ideas about our country’s past.
The Museum collects and preserves more than 3 million artefacts—all true national treasures. We take care of everything from the original Star-Spangled Banner and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat to Dizzy Gillespie’s angled trumpet and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.” Our collections form a fascinating mosaic of American life and comprise the greatest single collection of American history.
Our exhibitions explore major themes in American history and culture, from the War of Independence to the present day.
How is September 11 Bearing Witness used to memorialise history through its representation of the events of September 11 and its aftermath?
The article text of the titlepage orientates visitors (responders) to the physical exhibit situated in the National Museum of American History.
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of September11, the National Museum of American History provided visitors with a close-up view of more than 50 objects recovered from the three sites attacked that fateful day—New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pa.—as well as recent acquisitions that relate to how American lives have changed since then. The Museum's presentation was an unusual blend of a public program and a simple display of artifacts—a display, not a full exhibition. For nine days only, the objects were be (sic) shown on open tables, without cases. The intent was to give visitors an intimate experience that will help make this historic day more real in their memories and stimulate them to reflect on its significance.
This website highlights the objects that were displayed at the Museum. Although not the same as an in-person experience, here you can view and study the artifacts; you can contrast and compare.
Having answered the above two questions, you are now to begin a much more critical approach to the title webpage, focussing on the relationship between representation and meaning. It is important to keep in mind the focus of your study is on the text. Students should be careful not to get caught up in a broader critical examination of US cultural elements and foreign policy. Whereas these topics are fascinating, prominent and worthy of rigorous discussion, you need to be careful to focus your efforts on the prescribed syllabus direction and the examination rubric:
In your answer you will be assessed on how well you:
Part of the teleological process of historical inquiry is the ordering of past phenomena. Look carefully at the title webpage. As part of the teleological process, historical artefacts relating to the September 11 attacks have been specifically chosen, arranged and placed on the webpage as part of this historical process. For example:
Consider carefully the National September 11 Collection Objects images in the upper right frame of the webpage. These eight objects have been carefully selected by the Smithsonian to visually represent the website, its contents and purpose. There is a predominance of US servicemen and womens’ equipment including helmets, identification badges, fire-engine badging, pager and a photograph of a fire-fighter rushing up the stairs. A damaged US Flag takes prominence in the upper right, with Navajo commemorative earrings of a US flag in the bottom left hand corner. Note that each of these images is a hyperlink (constituting the largest hyperlinks on the page itself) and, as active hyperlinks, the images invite visitors to navigate through the online exhibit engaging the visitor through user capability.
Collectively the images present striking emotional, human and nationalistic elements to the otherwise austere webpage and are indicative of the website’s stated aim to ‘commemorate’.
Compare the images on the webpage with the information listed under the From the Blog sub-heading. The images contain no annotation or citation. This may represent an invitation to learn more about the images by enticing curious or emotionally affected users to select a hyperlink (certainly the images are annotated and given a location, source and collection number references on the next page) and/or the lack of annotation may be indicative of a diminished historical process in favour of a commemorative process.
Each blog sub-heading is given a date reference, however, and the blogs have been arranged in chronological order, oldest to youngest. The ordering of the blog statements is indicative of an historical approach. To what extent this ordering attributes an overall historical presence (and legitimacy) in the webpage is a matter of critical opinion.
The hermeneutic approach to the role of history involves the explanation and interpretation of past events. You may wish to argue that the hermeneutic role of history SHOULD be objective; based on reasoned and substantiated observation and communication though you do not have to. Indeed there is the argument (Foucault for example) that a truly objective interpretation of history is largely impossible. Language itself plays a key role in the objective/subjective nature of historical interpretation, as the choice and use of terminology and expression is in itself indicative of an objective or subjective perspective.
The title webpage of the exhibit contains specific vocabulary to historical inquiry. ‘Artefacts’, ‘exhibit’ ‘acquisition’, ‘mounted’, ‘study’ and ‘program’ are all specific examples of language relating to an historical inquiry and serve to give the webpage a professional tone commensurate to a national museum.
The main article of the title webpage is written in multiple narratives and in multiple tenses. The first paragraph is written in the past tense (as it describes the physical exhibition that was displayed on the 10th anniversary) from a third person perspective. Tense and perspective change in the second paragraph to the present tense this website highlights and second person narration here you can view and study … Both changes are indicative of the text form (a website.) The impact of this change and whether it detracts from the professional and historic tone established in the first paragraph is a matter for further evaluation.
It is important to remember the focus of this title webpage analysis: How is September 11 Bearing Witness used to memorialise history through its representation of the events of September 11 and its aftermath? Whereas in this analysis ‘history’ and ‘memory’ have been separated, students are reminded that it is the combination of the two that has the effect of memorialising the events of September 11.
In addressing the examination rubric, it is essential that students examine the issue of text form. (See Comments from the marking centre .) The text is a website. It enables the user (responder) to navigate through the various pages of the website via numerous pathways: users may wish to logically move through the website by following the hyperlinks along the left-hand navigation/contents panel; or viewers may take a less logical approach, meandering through the website through the numerous links that appear throughout each page. Such an approach to a text is called user navigation. In this instance, the very text medium - a website - lends itself to an organic approach indicative of memory through its enabling of user navigation: Just as one can ‘stroll down memory lane’; the user can navigate through the website in a personal way. The commemorative nature of the website’s purpose ‘to help make this historic day more real’ is directly addressed through this facility. This is not to say, however, that through such features as layout and item selection the composers of the webpage do not attempt to influence the user’s navigation path in a way known as autonomous navigation.
The placement and selection of the images, alongside the main heading of the title webpage, promote a more purposeful rather than personal navigation of the website. The focus on the deaths of emergency personnel, especially targets the emotions of the user and draws the user to navigate via an emotional response. The aforementioned manipulation of tense and perspective furthers this process: recalling memory though of the past, is a present tense experience and thus also seeks to influence the user.
Emotional and evocative language
There is a predominance of emotional and evocative language used throughout the title webpage. The emotional content of the website and exhibition is dramatically represented through the heading of the article text Remembrance and Reflection. The phrase That fateful day serves a dual purpose: as a signifier for September 11 2001; and as an indicator of the consequences following the attacks (notably US foreign policy and the subsequent ‘war on terror’.) The emotionally laden adjectives tragedy and horror are used to describe September 11, 2001. The main article concludes with an invitation to explore so that the exhibit will evoke many memories and reflections and asks the rhetorical question What does September 11, 2001 mean to you? all of which combine to evoke an emotional experience for the user.
Direct invitation / appeal
The final paragraph of the article text speaks directly to the user, explicitly seeking an emotional response with the question How did it affect your life? The wording of the question makes the assumption that the events of September 11 did affect the user and, in doing so, creates a collective consciousness within which the user can contribute. Next the title webpage encourages the user to explore an earlier exhibit of September 11 from 2002 (although there is no hyperlink to this exhibit) in an attempt to stimulate (a term used in the webpage itself) an emotional response. The next sentence is particularly relevant to this module of study:
We expect that your exploration will evoke many memories and reflections. We invite you to share your story with us and the thousands of others who will share this site.
The text presents a direct appeal and expectation of the user to continue to navigate / explore the exhibit and use the facilities linked on the right-hand side of the webpage to contribute to an online discussion and blog. In this way a collective memory is formed, with individual users navigating and contributing to and thus becoming part of a larger group.
The title webpage states that it is bearing witness to history.
How does the titlepage fulfil this personalising purpose to bear witness?
It is important to always keep in mind the demands of Module C when exploring the online exhibit. You are to explore the relationship between history and memory in your analysis and evaluation of representation and meaning.
In doing so you must do a lot more than describe elements/features of the webpages that attempt to organise and explain the past (history) in comparison to other elements which appeal to emotion (memory.) You are to focus your evaluation on how elements of history and memory are used to create meaning.
Elements of the online exhibit can be categorised into three main sections:
In completing the activities below, be sure to provide specific examples. HSC markers noted in the 2011 Notes from the Marking Centre : stronger responses skilfully dealt with the demands of the questions through well-chosen textual details.
Focus Question: Do the online exhibits only seek to commemorate or do the webpages fulfil some other purpose?
Focus question: How does ANY conversation create a community? How does THIS conversation page seek to create a SPECIFIC community?
Focus question: What does a blog represent?
Does this feature of the exhibit fulfil the purpose of a blog or some other purpose?
Special care should be taken in the selection and use of related material.
The analysis and evaluation of the textual evidence from the prescribed text – and text of own choosing – were used skilfully to consider how the unique act of representation in both texts evoked responses.
It was evident that the selection of the text of own choosing – and how it was used to respond to the question and connect with the prescribed text – influenced the quality of the response.
You should focus your attention on representation of history and memory and how this seeks to influence meaning. Avoid choosing a related text of a similar text form (online exhibit) or content (September 11), as this will promote a descriptive rather than an analytical approach. Remember the focus of the Module/elective is on representation and not politics. Choosing related texts in different formats with differing content will enable you to analyse how representation of both history and memory affects responders in significant ways in a variety of representations.
Use the Smithsonian’s September 11 commemorative exhibit’s own purpose, to bear witness, to select other materials. Consider other texts that do this in different representations for a similar (or different) purpose. Your analysis will therefore examine the role of context as well as the features of history and memory that are found within the representation of the historical event/issue. Be sure to focus on how representation seeks to influence meaning and fulfil a specific purpose.
|Picture books||Tan and Marsden Memorial|
|Raymond Briggs The tin-pot general and the old iron woman|
|Songs||Billy Bragg The world turned upside-down|
|Crosby, Stills and Nash Ohio|
|Paul Kelly / Kev Carmody From little things big things grow|
|Midnight Oil Power and the passion|
|Novels||Erich Maria Remarque All quiet on the western front|
|John Boyne The boy in the striped pyjamas|
|Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich|
|Film||Breaker Morant Director Bruce Beresford|
|Gallipoli Director Peter Weir|
|Born on the fourth of July Director. Oliver Stone|
When selecting a related text, consider the following:
|article text||The main body of text within a webpage. The central document of a web page.|
|autonomous navigation||The user’s pathway / navigation of a website are chosen by the elements of the website itself.|
|banners||(On a webpage.) Sign, symbol, title, masthead that is found at the top of a webpage that represents the website.|
|deliverables||(In a webpage.) Sections of a webpage that require the user to download, manipulate and then upload reply.|
|footer||Text separated from the main body of text that appears on the bottom of the page.|
|hermeneutic||As an approach to history, the hermeneutic approach seeks to explain and interpret past events.|
|hyperlink||(In computing) is a reference to data that the reader can directly follow, or that is followed automatically to other text.|
|hypertext||(In computing) text displayed on a computer or other electronic device with references (hyperlinks) to other text that the reader can immediately access, usually by a mouse click, keypress sequence or by touching the screen.|
|left-hand navigation bar||A number of hyperlinks in the form of tabs, icons or headings arranged vertically along the left-hand side of a screen / webpage. By convention navigation bars remain static (the same) across multiple webpages within a website and allow the user to navigate through the site.|
|motionables||(On a webpage.) Animations, moving images.|
|revered||Honour and greatly admire, venerate.|
|spacer||(In a webpage) separating one piece of content from other content consisting of the site’s background.|
|teleology||As an approach to history, the teleological approach seeks to describe, sort and order past events.|
|theme||The design of a web page. Used to coordinate appearance and content to reinforce the site's subject matter/purpose.|
|title webpage||The first (or opening) webpage of a website.|
|top bar menu||A number of hyperlinks in the form of tabs, icons or headings arranged horizontally along the top of a screen / webpage. By convention navigation bars remain static (the same) across multiple webpages within a website and allow the user to navigate through the site.|
|user||A person using a website.|
|user capability||The expertise level of a person using a website.|
|user navigation||The user’s pathway /navigation of a website are selected as a result of personal choice.|
|wallpaper||(In a webpage.) Background pattern.|