Portraits with a Posthumous Voice: Reinforcing and Contesting Social Norms in the Heterotopic Museum and Cemetery
Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of History
Date of Award
Museum Studies, M.A.
History and Social Studies Education Department
Dr. Cynthia Conides
Department Home page
Dr. Cynthia Conides
The following paper qualitatively analyzes and documents over 500 memorial-photographs/etched portraits on tombstones in ten Western New York cemeteries. This paper covers fourteen topics, ranging from religion to gang-violence. A juxtaposition of portraits exhibited within the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery with memorial-portraits on tombstones revealed heterotopic environments creating a public forum enabling the reinforcing or contestation of social ideologies. In other words, the author observed the similarities of identities and social norms publicly expressed on tombstones and gallery portraits.
A Social Constructionist approach enabled the study to examine how one social phenomenon contributes to the shaping of a culture. Viewed through a Sociological lens, portraitures displayed within cemeteries and museums are envisaged supporting particular social values (i.e. bravery) or challenging engrained belief systems (i.e. gender norms). A collective-identity and cultural ethos is latently reified through the public display of individuals within both the museum and cemetery. The sitter’s expression, dress, and posture influence how members of a society internalize their worldview.
Crissey, Matthew J., "Portraits with a Posthumous Voice: Reinforcing and Contesting Social Norms in the Heterotopic Museum and Cemetery" (2018). Museum Studies Theses. 20.
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