Date of Award

1-1-2022

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History

Specialization

Anthropology and Archaeology

Department

History

First Advisor

Rod Mather

Second Advisor

Catherine DeCesare

Abstract

The following project addresses how the preservation of memory is affected when memorials and public exhibits develop within a dispersed material cultural landscape. To address this problem, the Battle of Point Judith in May 1945 is used a case study. The Battle of Point Judith and its associated wrecks, the German U-853 and the American SS Black Point, display the positives and negatives of memorialization and public exhibition for historical artifacts across a decentralized material cultural landscape. After analyzing the characteristics of memorials, museums, and memorial-museums through additional examples like Auschwitz-Birkenau and Hiroshima, it may be seen that the Battle of Point Judith is represented in memorials and museums but not in memorial-museums. This may be because of its dispersed material cultural landscape, its smaller comparative casualties, and its localized recognition at the time. However, the variety of exhibition methods including small plaque memorials, artifact exhibitions, and online exhibitions of Synthetic Aperture Sonar images have maintained the battle’s place in the historical memory of New England. By specifically synthesizing the history of the Battle of Point Judith and its post-war salvage a reemphasis on preserving its place in local memory develops. This recentralized model counters the dispersal of the material cultural landscape and recognizes the importance of the Battle of Point Judith as a piece of Rhode Island history. This project along with the recommendations and examples provided by the U-505 exhibit convey that the creation of a memorial-museum for the battle is possible. Due to the dispersed landscape, it may look different, taking on a temporary or digital form, but its production would establish how decentralized interpretations preserve New England’s memory of the Battle of the Atlantic and how recentralized ones preserve Rhode Island’s memory of the Battle of Point Judith. The reemphasis on local memory will serve veterans, their families, and the Rhode Island public by offering a centralized synthesis of the history.

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