How The Framework and “Grammar” Of a Museum Help Convey a Message

Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich explains that the main framework of a museum is about its “grammar.” What Hansen-Glucklich means is that the structure and the techniques used for exhibitions create meaning. I agree with Hansen-Glucklich’s framework, and I feel that it is one of the most important parts of a museum. While a museum usually is filled with information, it is not always the most exciting thing to stare at facts or paintings on a wall. Using different techniques to arrange the information or how the information is presented can change the impact of the information and make it less boring for the audience. Hansen-Glucklich talks about the displays in the USHMM and how it has a strong impact on the viewers because of how a display is arranged and conveyed.If a display is arranged in a certain way, it can send a point that the curator is trying to make.

GERMANY, Berlin. Memorial to the Victims of the Holocaust.

For example, I have been to the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, and it has an unyielding impact when you walk through it. While at first glance, the memorial doesn’t seem much, but when you walk between the hundreds of columns and see the 3 million names written on the memorial, there is a sad thought about all of the people that died in the Holocaust and what a terrible tragedy it was. I feel as though the expression of sadness and just how large the tragedy of the Holocaust is perfectly conveyed in the memorial. The placing of the memorial is also impactful because right next the memorial is the ruins of rooms that the Nazi’s used to kill Jews and torture them. The Berlin Holocaust Memorial is a great example of Hansen-Glucklich’s point that the framework and the “grammar” are important to the message of the display.


4 thoughts on “How The Framework and “Grammar” Of a Museum Help Convey a Message

  1. That’s a great example! How does the notion of “grammar” here help you understand what that memorial is doing? What is Hansen’s definition of a museum’s grammar? The term usually implies a structured network of components that form the building blocks of language. Is that what she means, and if so, how do museums have such a thing? And then what is the grammar of this Berlin memorial?


  2. After reading the articles for today, I have realized that although museums and monuments are meant to be a reminder of the past and preservation of history, museums and monuments can be surrounded by controversy. For the Dutch colonies, the monuments in the area raising prominent figures in Dutch colonialism is controversial and seen as wrong. During Dutch colonialism, thousands of natives died in the massacres while the Dutch were colonizing area such as Indonesia. Although these massacres are terrible events such as the Holocaust are much worse, and the monuments that were erected to memorialize the event and remember all who perished aren’t as controversial and criticized as the Dutch colonial monuments. I wonder why that is? I feel as the reason why the Dutch colonial monument is meet with so much controversy is that the monuments are memorializing the people that helped conquer the colonies and the Holocaust monuments are memorializing all the people that died in the terrible event.


  3. I have also been to the Berlin holocaust memorial, and found it very moving. Considering Berlin was the epicenter of the Nazi regime and behind some of the worst atrocities against humans possible, would you say that the memorial goes far enough? At the time I would say that it does and even acknowledges how ordinary Germans turned in their neighbors to the Gestapo. However, the power of this museum and memorial is in my opinion undercut by what I learned soon after. After we exited the memorial, our tour guide took us to a parking lot and told us that this was where Adolf Hitler’s bunker was, now an unmarked garage. In fact, it wasn’t until 2006, during the World Cup that Germany publically announced of its existence. My point of this antidote is while they have built a giant memorial to their past and their crimes, they attempted to hide for over 50 years the place where Hitler and the Nazi regime finally collapsed. For a democratic government that has attempted to shed its past in the most public way possible, I wonder what their thought process was, and what this says about their Berlin memorial.


  4. I also agree with Hansen-Glucklich’s framework and think that a lot can be gained from viewing museums in this way. People go to museums to enjoy what they are viewing and learn from the exhibit. The conventional “grammar” of museums is usually not the most exciting. For curators in the modern day to be going outside of the conventional “grammar” so often they are changing the impact the information has on the viewer. I really enjoyed your example from the Berlin Holocaust Memorial especially considering it was a German museum. I agree that the placement of the memorial is extremely impactful as it stands next to the the ruins of where the Nazi’s operated. I think it would be interesting to compare this German museum to a non-German museum and also to a public monument and compare and contrast the effect on the viewer of all three.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s