NEW VISIONS OF THE PAST – TECHNOLOGY AND THE CREATION OF MEMORY SPACE IN SOUTH AFRICAN MUSEUMS
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Post-Apartheid South Africa is demanding a revised approach to the construction of museums and memory space, seeking to identify a new form of museum that assists in reflecting the history of Apartheid while facilitating community growth and commonality. This paper examines two differing approaches: The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg; and The Red Location Museum near Port Elizabeth. Both museums present evolving solutions to the challenge of creating meaningful museum space and exemplify how design technology is responding to emerging questions of how to deal with recent and emotionally raw historical events. The Apartheid Museum follows the experientially based linear model to create a simulated sense of history incorporating persuasive architecture with digital technology. In so doing a slick, international package of the past is produced. In contrast, The Red Museum re-thinks the mode of construction, materiality and linear narrative tradition in museums to create a new kind of space, open and flexible, which is situated in the heart of the township it serves. Dignified and refined, this museum re-positions the past as an entity in the present, acknowledging and celebrating a uniquely African mode of understanding and conveying history. Both regarded as highly successful in their own right, the museums identify ways in which new technology can be applied in the construction of current historical narratives and reveal how technologies can be redirected to allow for the emergence of new perspectives. In this respect, architecture contributes to the construction of new political narratives, using space and technology to subtly convey emotive messages around historical events.
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