University of Leicester
2022KatharakiSPHD.pdf (18.33 MB)

Emotional Narratives at Holocaust Exhibitions in the UK: Exploring Visitors’ Engagement and Experience

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posted on 2022-10-20, 10:52 authored by Sofia Katharaki

My thesis analyses the ways in which individuals experienced and responded to Holocaust history exhibitions in the UK, immediately after their visit by interpreting their emotional and personal narratives. This research aims primarily to understand what triggers people to visit/revisit Holocaust exhibitions, the nature of the visitors' experience within Holocaust exhibitions, as well as understanding both how and why individuals engage with the difficult past in certain ways. Consequently, the thesis examines how emotional responses were contextualised within museum and whether emotional engagement has any significance in visitors' thoughts, feelings and attitude, in relation to the past and its contemporary meaning.

The fieldwork took place in two museums in the UK: The National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Nottingham and the Jewish museum in London. The use of interpretative qualitative approach, and open-ended interviews were conducted to enhance the exploration and understanding of how visitors responded to difficult past.

The visitors' diverse emotional responses shed light on the ways in which they related and interpreted historical narratives within museums' exhibitions. The contribution of this thesis is also enhanced by providing insights regarding the extent in which individuals used the museum exhibitions to reinforce their established ideas and values, and/or validate their identities, and how this engagement shaped their museum experience.

Furthermore, by bridging together theories and methodologies from different disciplines (museum studies, media psychology, theory of emotions and sociocultural paradigms) the research has enriched our understanding of how the emotions work and how visitors used them within the museum space. Finally, this research questions the assumption that creating Holocaust exhibitions encourages visitors to engage effectively in ideas that affect their thoughts and actions in the future.



Sheila Watson

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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