Discussions about, toward,
around, and alongside the
New England American Studies
Association's Fall 2011 Conference.
See the schedule at the bottom of
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and perspective to the mix!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lauren Tilton: Recreating World War II: Experiencing The National World War II Museum

Advertisements, billboards, and business cards invite New Orleanians, tourists
and the nation to come “Experience the Victory” at the National World War II (WWII) Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Experience is a fascinating word choice particularly in light of the museum’s recent expansion.  Phase one was recently completed to the tune of 300 million dollars and resulted in a dinner-theatre, a celebrity chef restaurant (that serves $20 entrees) and 4-D movie theatre narrated by Tom Hanks.  (For a funny Onion article on Tom Hank’s obsession with WWII, visit http://tinyurl.com/2dtyuot)

 Dinner-Theatre performance of “Music of the 1940s” 

 Celebrity Chef Restaurant – John Besh’s American Sector

4-D movie theatre Beyond All Boundaries

The expansion creates quite a different experience than one imagines when learning in textbooks, reading books or watching films about the daily sacrifices on the homefront or fighting on the front lines. What is this collective memory or prosthetic memory (to borrow from Alison Landsberg) the museum is creating?

I would love any questions, feedback, or thoughts. Please feel free to link more youtube videos or other interesting info!

- Lauren Tilton
American Studies Graduate Student, Yale


  1. Hi Lauren,

    I have the greatest reaction to the Beyond All Boundaries experience. The vicarious experience of war history through an interactive game experience (because essentially that's what it is--a game you can live through and not have to die in battle) is really disturbing. It continues to glorify war, battle, heroes, and the patriotic sense of the valor of the American role in WWII. I think it is one step away from video games like Black Ops, where young people are "trained" to perform the duties of war.

    Troublesome, as history.

    Laura D'Amore
    Roger Williams University

  2. Laura,

    Thank you for commenting!

    Thinking about your comparison to interactive gaming makes me wonder what the impact of the experience is when you are responsible or not for pulling the trigger (even if it's just a game controller) and the resulting relationship to the violence.

    I agree that the glorification is particularly alarming. Not just the ahistorical vision of America in it but more simply the romanticism of war.

    Now add birthday parties to it all and you really have a disturbing mix.