PRESS Research Workshop: Do memorials promote reconciliation?
Department:Center for the Study of Democratic Politics
Audience:Restricted to Princeton University
PRESS workshops are co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics (CSDP), Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, and the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance
Presenter: Elsa Voytas, PhD Candidate, Politics
Authors: Laia Balcells (Duke), Valeria Palanza (Universidad Católica de Chile), Elsa Voytas (Princeton)
In recent years, it has become increasingly common to commemorate victims of conflict and crimes against humanity with museums and memorial sites that recount the offenses they faced. The prevalence of such sites therefore begs the question: how do they impact visitors and observers? Does their existence promote societal reconciliation among victims and their offenders? Do museums and memorials alter citizens’ current political preferences? Memorial and museum establishment typically rests on the implicit assumption that they will encourage societal reconciliation and national unity. To test this assumption, we conduct a randomized field experiment in Santiago, Chile. We evaluate the impact of visiting two different sites memorializing victims of General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile: the Villa Grimaldi Peace Park, a memory site located at the site of a former torture center; and the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights), a state-established memorial museum. By measuring changes in individual attitudes after being randomly assigned to visit one of these sites, our findings advance our understanding of the effects of museums and memorials addressing a society’s history not just in Chile but across the world.