SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

Engaging Museums

Engaging Museums

Rhetorical Education and Social Justice

Add to Cart

Lauren E. Obermark


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
196 pages, 6 x 9.25, 5 illustrations


Additional Materials

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.


"Engaging Museums: Rhetorical Education and Social Justice is a seminal work of extraordinary scholarship."—Helen Dumont, Midwest Book Review

“Lauren E. Obermark deftly explores three compelling museum spaces to consider both the rhetorical and social justice pedagogy they cultivate for visitors. Engaging Museums extends and invigorates conversations in rhetorical studies centered at the nexus of public memory and rhetorical education, and it offers powerful heuristics that will deepen and complicate readers’ teaching and their museum attendance.”—Jessica Enoch, author of Domestic Occupations: Spatial Rhetorics and Women’s Work
“Obermark tackles a critical issue by exploring the techniques of an often-overlooked partner. Her timely analysis of three midwestern museums is critical but complex, equally ready to learn from successes and challenges. What I most appreciate is her willingness to put her own thought processes on display as she grapples with how best to engage in public education for social justice action.”—Elizabeth Weiser, author of Museum Rhetoric: Building Civic Identity in National Spaces