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Engaging Museums

Engaging Museums

Rhetorical Education and Social Justice

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Lauren E. Obermark


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
216 pages, 6 x 9, 5 illustrations


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About the Book

Examining rhetorical engagement with difficult topics

Museums offer an opportunity to reenvision rhetorical education through their address of hard, discomforting histories that challenge visitors to confront traumatic events and work toward a better future. While both museum studies and rhetoric center the audience in their scholarship and practices, this volume engages across and between these disciplines, allowing for a fuller theorization and enactment of rhetorical education’s connections to social justice. Engaging Museums works to fill gaps between the fields of rhetoric and social justice by going beyond classrooms to sites of public memory represented in museums.
This volume presents three distinct, diverse case studies of recently established historical museums taking on the rhetorically complex tasks of representing traumatic events: the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the National World War I Museum, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. Through rhetorical and comparative analysis of data collected from the museums and intersectional transdisciplinary frameworks, each chapter theorizes aspects of rhetoric—namely identification, collectivity, and memory—bringing rhetorical theory more firmly into current conversations surrounding civic engagement and social justice. 
Obermark’s weave of voices and perspectives concludes with a critical focus on how memory may serve as a generative pedagogical topos for both public rhetoric and university-based rhetoric and writing classrooms. This book helps scholars, students, and teachers bring what museums do—difficult, complicated pedagogical work representing hard history—back inside the classroom and further into our civic discourse.


Lauren E. Obermark, associate professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, is coeditor of The Rhetoric of Participation: Interrogating Commonplaces in and beyond the Classroom. She has published on rhetoric, pedagogy, social justice, and public memory in Rhetoric ReviewCollege English, and Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning.