The House that Memory Built

Medellín’s transformation from modest Colombian city to global cocaine-trade hub to murder capital and finally to innovative urban area has been fraught with conflict and violence, perhaps more than any other place in South America. A new museum, the House of Memory Museum (el Museo Casa de la Memoria), is built on the notion that lasting peace is attainable and maintainable through solemn remembrance.

Its gray structure rising from the streets of Medellín’s busy Boston neighborhood, the museum transforms a legacy of suffering into a cultural memory and creates a space in which the people of Medellín can store their memories within the larger story of their country. The permanent exhibit re-creates the city’s violent history through photographs, newspaper articles, conceptual art, and multimedia timelines.

Though other countries have museums for war and conflict — Rwanda, Cambodia and throughout Europe — Medellín’s House of Memory is designed so as not to focus on the artifacts of violence. It doesn’t overwhelm the viewer with brutality; rather, it strikes a balance between conveying historical information and preserving a sense of intimacy with its victims, letting visitors hear spoken stories rather than shocking them with carnage.

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