First Advisor

Rebecca Buller

Date of this Version



Dowden, Carissa L.. 2022. "Commemorating the Past: Nebraska Museum Practices in Interpreting, Memorializing, and Mythologizing History." Master's thesis, University of Nebraska.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Geography, Under the Supervision of Professor Rebecca Buller. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2022

Copyright © 2022 Carissa Dowden


Commemorative landscapes are spaces that have a symbolic meaning to a group of people and are often identified by a government or by a local community. These landscapes act as “symbolic conduits” to both express and legitimize interpretations of the past, though geographic interpretations are largely limited to the American South and Europe (Alderman and Dywer 2012). This research seeks to better understand landscapes of commemoration and memorialization in Nebraska, specifically how memories of the West and pioneers are constructed and represented within heritage and history institutions. Applying methods in geography, public history and digital humanities, this research considers both physical and digital spaces in sense of commemorative places. Critical perspectives are used to deconstruct common museum exhibit narratives of white supremacy, misogyny, and racism. This thesis features three case studies: schoolhouse museums primarily present an idealized hyperlocal world of yesteryear. Digital spaces have become as important as physical ones, particularly in fostering community support in times of crisis. The majority of museums in the state commemorate European-American pioneer history, though challenges to these traditional narratives are becoming more common place.

Advisor: Rebecca Buller