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“Remember When We…?”: Personal Memory in Family Visits to History Museums

Thesis by Abby Rhineheart (2018)

As children grow up, they do not just learn about history in school, but develop an image of the past from extracurricular influences, including family members’ stories and memories. Studies of family talk in museums suggest visitors often share personal memories within these contexts. However, these studies have not systematically or deeply interrogated the nature of memory sharing. The purpose of this study was to describe, first, the ways in which family groups visiting history museums use personal memories to collectively make sense of history and, second, what exhibit content or components seem to prompt the sharing of these memories. Using a qualitative survey design, this study examined the frequency, nature, and locations of visitor memory sharing in three history museum exhibits, with video recordings and self-administered questionnaires of 27 families. This study found that families frequently share personal memories in history museum visits. Caregivers are central figures in these conversations, which share a variety of different types of information. Overall, personal memory sharing seems to be prompted by particular elements of exhibit content. Understanding this type of family talk can help history educators from both formal and informal sectors better understand how young people’s ideas about the past develop and consider how personal memory relates to young people’s learning trajectories.

Keywords: Class of 2018, Educational Psychology, History, Museum Studies, Communication and the Arts, Social Sciences, Education, Family Learning, History Learning, History Museum, Memory, Museology, Museum


Rhinehart, A., Luke, Jessica, Parker, Walter, & Taylor, Katie Headrick. (2018). “Remember When We…?”: Personal Memory in Family Visits to History Museums, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.