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
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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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