Museums as contested sites of remembrance

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  • Discusses various elements involved in the controversy surrounding the exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum of the Enola Gay, the airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb. The author views the situation to have arisen when competing interests vied to influence how facts involved with the dropping of the bomb should be presented in the exhibition, and devotes a section of the chapter to consider versions of the facts argued by each of the four main factions involved: museum curators, American veteran organizations, the Japanese government, and the U. S. government. Arguments put forth by each of these groups are discussed in terms of how they influenced the exhibition and caused it to be changed from the original concept.
  • The author writes that museums are places which represent history, and are therefore sites of remembrance that influence thinking about the past; however, the author contends that museums have not been fulfilling their traditional roles, as they have sadly become increasingly politicized and money-conscious.


  • Heyman, Ira Michael 5/30/1930-11/19/2011
  • United States Congress
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • Enola Gay (Bomber)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


The book is copyrighted by The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review. Twenty-one "Notes" appear at the end of the chapter.

Contained within

Theorizing Museums: Representing identity and diversity in a changing world (Book)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Airplanes
  • WW II
  • Atomic bomb
  • Education
  • Controversies
  • Secretaries
  • Exhibitions
  • Museums
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Museums--Educational aspects


United States

Physical description

pgs. 69-82

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