Public History and Memory - 26-27.04.2018

Workshop with Chrischené Julius

Image courtesy of the District Six Museum

Public history relies on the interplay of the past with the present - relaying historical narratives in ways that show how our contemporary contexts have been shaped and continue to be shaped by past events and processes. It does this as a means of advocacy, to bring about social justice or simply to illuminate the link between the past and the present. Professionals who find themselves in this field often have close relationships with the "public" or the "community" - often accompanied by the impetus to collect oral testimonies. They imagine innovative ways to encourage public debate and awareness. Central to this is the understanding of how and why people remember. The workshop provides a general introduction to research about public history and memory and as a case study will focus on examples from the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa. The District Six Museum is internationally renowned for its innovative work with public history and memory. The District Six Museum commemorates the experiences of life and forced removals in District Six, an area in central Cape Town from which 60,000 black residents were forcibly removed after it was declared a white group area in 1966. Established as the first community museum in the South Africa in 1994, the museum has actively engaged in debates about how the experience of apartheid has been narrated and represented. It does so by working with the testimonies of those who experienced forced removals and engaging with contemporary debates about apartheid spatial engineering and its lasting impact on the city and people's identities. The Museum's work is vested in developing complex public narratives of place and memory - often coming up against the dominant and romanticised depictions of District Six that are shared by former residents and researchers alike, and which are eagerly consumed by tourists and expected by museum visitors. PhD students from all areas of specialisation are welcome. Texts for preparation will be circulated before the workshop.  

When & Where

Thursday 26.04.2018: 2.30 - 6.00 pm

Friday 27.04.2018: 9.30 am - 1.00 pm. A lunch will follow.  

Department of History, Hirschgässlein 21, 4051 Basel, Seminar Room 3


All participants are invited to register no later than 12th April 2018 via this form.

PhD students of the University of Basel who would like to get 1 credit point must register additionally via MOnA no later than 26th March 2018. 

Participants who would like to present and discuss their work during the workshop are invited to send a brief abstract no later than 31st March 2018 (max. 2000 characters). 


Chrischené Julius is visiting the Basel Graduate School of History in April 2018 as a BGSH fellow. She is a South African historian and the Head of the Collections, Research and Documentation Department of the District Six Museum in Cape Town. The District Six Museum has since its foundation in 1994 conducted extensive oral history research for its exhibitions and archive about experiences of District Six and forced removals in Cape Town. It has developed an interdisciplinary and multi-genre approach to historical research and collaborates regularly with academic historians, artists, community organisations and youth groups. Chrischené Julius has managed and conducted interviews for various oral history projects of the District Six Museum. Her current research focuses on how oral history intersects with the functioning of the Museum as a public space which not only reproduces historical narratives but also actively produces them.