English Ph.D. Dissertations


Re-Vision: A Rhetorical Analysis of Change in the Holocaust Memorial Center

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Sue Carter (Advisor)


While the number of Holocaust museums in the United States has grown in recent years, few of these museums which serve as memorials to the victims of Nazi violence have existed long enough to undergo major revisions. The purpose of this study was to identify and investigate in light of revision theory those revisions that occurred in the Holocaust Memorial Center, America's first Holocaust museum, during the recent relocation and expansion of the museum. Using existing theory in four fields, material rhetoric, museum theory, memorial theory, and revision theory as a base, this dissertation offers a rhetorical analysis of the museum loosely based on Carole Blair's analyses of memorial sites such as the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, as well as a catalogue and discussion of selected changes observed in the museum. Using analysis of archival photographs, visitor guides, and a videotaped museum tour of the previous facility to identify what had been, the study then moved to a careful analysis of the museum as it exists today. This allowed identification and documentation of changes or revisions that had taken place. These changes were catalogued using a taxonomy created for the study, and a discussion of selected changes was presented. The study found strong similarities between text revisions made by experienced writers and the museum revisions. Both were based on the same two key considerations: the identified purpose of the text, and the identified audience for the text. Both the text revisions of experienced writers and the revisions observed in the museum showed a willingness to make radical revisions if necessary. However, there was one major difference discovered between the revisions of experienced writers and the revisions that take place in museums. The revisions that occur in museums are not always the product of the original creator of the text. Implications for further research included replication of the study in publicly-funded or site-location Holocaust museums as well as replication in other types of museums. Another area for further research identified was investigation of the impact of artifact construction by museums.