For semiotically complex topics of investigation, such as museums, the need arises for an integrated analytical approach that enables the researcher to study the relationship between its different components and their possible social significance. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), on the National Mall in Washington (DC), next to the Washington Monument, which marks the culmination of decades of efforts and struggles to commemorate African American history, is a case in point. A major representational objective of the museum is to rescue generations of black people from anonymity by showing how ingenious and resilient the people who endured slavery were, and how optimism, hope and spirituality – the typical US values – define African American culture as well. In order to investigate the interplay and evaluate the synergy of the multi-layered communicative dimensions of the NMAAHC, which is the major objective of this observational study, an integrated methodological approach was required. The resources of multimodal discourse analysis were thus integrated with the fine-grained tools of the Appraisal Framework for the verbal components, and with insights from museum studies. The socio-cognitive implications of the data of these observational analyses were discussed in the light of the relatively recent and ongoing efforts to reconsider USA history through the lens of the African American experience.
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