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Technical Leaflet 255: Interpreting Difficult Knowledge (PDF Download)

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The rise of social history sparked an interest in the story of the common person and inherently, the oppression experienced by many different groups throughout American history. Dr. Julia Rose explores why visitors are reluctant to face the ”tough stuff” with examples of commemorative sites found throughout the country. She defines what “difficult knowledge” means and the challenges of presenting a seemingly unbiased history on controversial topics.

An explanation of the 5Rs of Commemorative Museum Pedagogy – Receive, Resistance, Repetition, Reflection, and Reconsideration – outlines how visitors react to and learn about a disruptive history. Using the 5Rs, Rose stresses the importance of engaging audiences when presenting difficult topics like slavery, HIV/AIDs, and genocide.

Technical Leaflet #255 (2011) 

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