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How Landscapes Monuments And Artefacts Preserve Memory History Essay

Samuel Hynes’ definition of memory is that it is a state of sense of mentality of an individual in which both the pasts and events are preserved or recovered respectively (Green 2004, 37). The sociologist, in the 1920s, Maurice Halbwachs (1887 – 1945), whom was influenced heavily by the sociology of Emile Durkheim, pointed out that the study of memory is not revolved around separate expressions from individuals; instead, it works in a way of togetherness within the society alongside with socially structured arrangements. As what Jeffrey Olick (2007, 7) had quoted; “It is in society that people normally acquire their memories...recall, recognize and localize their memories” (Halbwachs, 1992, 38; Olick 2007, 7). In short, memory is – as proclaimed by Lacquer (2000, 1) – to be the one which provides the accessibility to the pasts and events which has already been shut away by history (Alcock and van Dyke 2003, 1).

Memories of the past are preserved in various forms; books, museums, films, landscapes, monuments, artefacts, commemorations and others. These ‘vehicles of memory’ are seen as past representation which is defined as a prospective form of both personal and collective memories (Green 2004, 36). Landscapes, monuments and artefacts would be classified as inscribed memory as they are visible materials associated with commemoration. In Connerton’s work, How Societies Remember (1989), he had significantly defined that inscribed memory involved illustrations, memorials and documentaries (Dyke and Alock 2003, 4).

Landscapes are regarded as the ‘riches historical record that we possess’ (W. G. Hoskins 1955, 14; Holtorf and Williams 2006, 236) in various archaeological records. All landscapes contained a certain memory, considering the fact that they are and were, now and once; inhabited, visited or altered. As landscapes are able to symbolize memories, they are possible to be realistically represented with the remains of materials such as artefacts or monuments. Landscapes are often associated to ‘mediated remembrance and memory’ in correspond to their ability to either stimulate or hide the once existing history (Holtorf and Williams 2006, 235). Most landscapes – particularly accumulative landscapes – are seen as composer of visible human activities and natural characteristics. These landscapes represented the potential form of both past personal and collective memories. According to James Wright (Gabriel 1997, 8), landscape in general, is not just restricted to the fact that it is just a physical setting but also includes people, events, ideas, concepts, principles, words, works, and just about anything that is a matter to memory. In a way, memory had evolved into landscapes considering the assumption made that all experiences are ‘filtered through memory’ (Gabriel 1997, 8).

The relationship or the methodology, in which landscapes helped to preserve memories in archaeological studies, is by looking through the prehistoric and ancient societies instead of those that are of the last half millennium (Bradley 2002; Chapman 1997; Holtorf and Williams 2006, 237) and then remembering as one looked out to it. Looking out over the physical settings within an environment often had people engaged in identifying what is left behind by the societies from different periods of the past and through these, an imagination of the once occurred events may come into mind as to how these past events changes the ancient landscapes (Lynch 1972, 3). In other words, the presence of information on the ways to observe and interpret remains seen allowed the viewers to easily review both recent acquainted and earlier pasts (Holtorf and Williams 2006, 237). An example of a site of memory can be seen in southern Norway, the landscape of Hanabergsmarka at Jærmuseet near Nærbø. Both viewing and studying of this landscape had shown a chronological collection of the past, in which each of the elements such as a Bronze Age burial mound, an Iron Age stone wall, medieval stone wall, World War II ruins of German fortifications, Iron Age clearance cairn, Middle Ages haystack site, c. 1945 plantation forestry, were explained to the viewers (Holtorf and Williams 2006, 237). During the time of ancient societies, social practices as well as literatures and verbal illustrations may have contributed to the development of memories and at the same time, an alliance between these adaptations might assist in the creation of memories deriving from surrounding features; such as the act of carrying out the practices of both everyday life and rituals within the landscape (Holtorf and Williams 2006, 238).

Many chapters of past memories, either personal or collective, are well-associated to certain places in the landscape, such as in Palestine, where various settings of certain proceedings, as described in the Bible, were considered by religious groups as sacred places of the collective memory although they were later proven to be more of a creation rather than a precise memory. Particularly the early Christians, as well as the gospels writers, who tried to memorialize, by linking together, the proceedings in the life of Jesus with the site which were already significant to the Jewish religious tradition of the Old Testament (Holtorf and Williams 2006, 240). Sites of memory are not restricted to mainly focusing on landscapes as a setting, but churches, churchyards, cathedrals and chapels, in particular, the ones from the late middle ages, were suggested to be ‘complex and evolving ‘landscapes’ of memory’ (Williams 2003; Holtorf and Williams 2006, 240). Before and after the reformation, these ‘landscapes’ of memory, or rather, church architecture, was the centre of representation for memory (Finch 2003; Tarlow 1999c, 2000b; Holtorf and Williams 2006, 240) with the obvious increasing number of graveyards, tombs, crypts, vaults, gravestones, burial plots and mausolea. The significance of the church architecture as a site of memory can be illustrated through an example of a parish church, Grinton, located in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. According to Andrew Fleming, the church at Grinton (‘the cathedral of the dales’) was the only burial site until 1580, when chapel at Muker was granted a license for burial. Grinton was the focal point for commemorative activities. Corpses had to be carried all the way from townships to Grinton for burial (A. Fleming 1998, 10; Holtorf and Williams 2006, 241). Another illustration of commemorative significance of the church as a place of memory can be seen in a deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy in East Yorkshire. Both Maurice Beresford and John Hurst had shown through their research that the St. Martin’s church was still in use, until 1949, for burial, worship and commemoration whilst the village was already deserted by the 16th C (Beresford and Hurst 1990, 52; Holtorf and Williams 2006, 241). In this case, churches are similar to ancient testaments; they are not only portrayed as landmarks but also represent a foundation for preserved memories and the pasts.

Despite landscapes of having the token to preserve both personal and collective memories, it also have the ability to have the past hidden or enable memories to disappear. A good example to determine this fact can be seen from industrial landscapes. These ‘landscapes can be very much about ‘forgetting’ ’ (Holtorf and Williams 2006, 239). According to the studies made by David Gwyn, the slate mining communities in North Wales during the 19th century had brought to attention the ‘commemorative focus of class and religious identities’ provided by the chapels and their burial grounds for the workers (Holtorf and Williams 2006, 239). The chapels were mainly important in such landscapes in preserving whatever commemorative values that is left whilst ‘other layers of meaning were in danger of being ‘forgotten’’ (Gwyn 2004, 50; Holtorf and Williams 2006, 239) when the soils of quarries are mined away. Leaving behind a memory is considered as deliberate acts of destructions. During the reign of Apartheid in 1966 of District Six of Cape Town, the regime seek to set up ‘white ownership and occupation in new townhouses and high rise flats’ – forcing the people to move out and buildings were demolished, literally erasing the memories of the forgotten past altogether (Holtorf and William 2006, 239). However, even when the landscape is no longer there, but it will always be commemorated in the former inhabitants’ memory as well as within the new urban landscape itself. After the regime changed from 1977, ‘many of the former inhabitants reclaimed the remains of their familiar urban landscape and proudly displayed their ‘treasures’ and memories in the new District Six Museum’ (Hall 2000, 156-176; Holtorf and Williams 2006, 239). No matter what, the past which once existed is always present within the landscapes and be remembered by the individuals who were once their inhabitants.

Monuments are often referred to as one of the many constructive ways to engage an individual with the past memories. They are considered as ‘the centre of a whirlwind of movement’ as travellers and others set foot around them; and religious ritual activities took place within them (Nelson and Olin 2003, 11). Records in forms of postcards and photographs were made by those who have come and gone as tokens of how the monument and their experienced visits are remembered. These pictorial records not only defined the characteristics of the monuments, but also act as a way in which personal memories between the monuments and the travellers are preserved. Hence, monuments maybe said to have preserved personal memories through these photographic tokens. For example, urban federal buildings were only regarded as monument after they are destroyed by terrorists, and thereafter, postcards of them appeared in the personal collections within societies (Nelson and Olin 2003, 11). Monuments are sites of memories and this can be further determined with examples.

According to Stephen Bann (Nelson and Olin 2003, 12), a later antiquarian and collector John Bargrave who travelled to Bourges, France in 1645, experienced forced exile and had a grief for a lost society in Canterbury. During his journey, he made the Cathedral of Bourges into a replica of the cathedral at Canterbury in order to imitate on the local one at home. ‘His abrupt juxtapositions of travel views with descriptions of historical events that, in emblematic mode, recall current or recent events turned the cathedral into a monument of recent destruction in its own home and the lost home of the exile’ (Nelson and Olin 2003, 12). Such action has transformed the monument into a site of personal memory for Bargrave. Being on site was the main purpose of his journey, in which he had, took and left tokens; he marked his presence by leaving behind an inscription on the great cathedral skyscraper (Nelson and Olin 2003, 12). More than a century later, a Chinese scholar-painter, whom was a subject of Lillian Tseng’s essay, Huang Yi had visited ancient sites. He did the same as Bargrave, implying about the dates of ‘the stele he visited from their inscriptions’ (Nelson and Olin 2003, 12). Obtaining accurate stele rubbings was the aim of his journey. He documented it amongst the stele using drawings and Wu Yi’s studio, where his reunion with his friend Wu Yi took place, was regarded as a monument. Apart from demonstrating the monumental importance of the stele and studio, Huang Yi’s drawings had also established a linkage between friends – where comments were inscripted – hence, personal memory preserved. Thus, it can be assumed that most monuments, either ancient or modern, pursue the act to preserve memories – particular personal memories, by being tourist spots or attractions of modern day tourism.

Hooper-Greenhill’s (2000, 106) definition of artefacts is things which people made and not those from the production of the natural world, ‘something which demonstrates skill and human intervention’ (van Wyk 2004, 3). Artefacts are often used by museums to demonstrate the past, often either through narrative illustrations or artefact exhibitions (Solani 2006, 26; van Wyk 2004, 3) as they are regarded as a vessel beholding the past. Memories are easily prompted through artefacts as they maybe claimed to serve as a trigger for memory about the past through their use or simply just plain contact. Robben Island is a well-known site for banishing and imprisoning political prisoners of South Africa’s pre-democratic state. Various kinds of artefacts, which were believed to have been left behind by the Correctional Services during the period in which the island was used as an imprisonment site, were recovered (van Wyk 2004, 1). An example of the artefacts is the ‘piano’, which was a fingerprint pad. According to an ex-political prisoner, Napoleon Letsuko, the fingerprint pad was used for recording fingerprints of ex-political prisoners at the time when they made their entrance through the Record Room. After the recording of the fingerprints, registrations were made into the prison books before prison cards and cell allocations were issued. The personal memory of Letsuko as an ex-political prisoner was inscripted onto the ‘piano’ as he gave a talk through what the artefact was and its uses. His experiences being imprisoned were prompted through the pad by its identification and demonstrating its function (van Wyk 2004, 7). Thus, this further signified that his memories of being an ex-political prisoner was literally carved and preserved within the artefact itself.

There are other various forms of artefacts which act as preserving vessels for memories, such as sculptures. The sculptures produced by artist, Leonardo Drew, were made out of ‘bales of raw unprocessed cotton – a loaded material in American history’ (Enwezor 1994, 47). In his sculptures, he was able to commemorate the truly existing events of history. His sculptures were made ‘with great poetic force; full of melancholy, with attributes of excavation and decay’ (Enwezor 1994, 47). Theoretical structure and elements of simplicity were merged together, composing stories out of both personal and collective memories, as well as loss and regenerations. For example, the sculpture Number 8, ‘is a compendium of gnarled webs of ropes piled with detritus, as if a net instead of being cast in water, was cast in an urban landfill, accumulating all manner of refuse (piles of straw, feathers, cloth, earth, cardboard, skeletal remains of birds, etc) that finally spill onto the floor space’ (Enwezor 1994, 47). From the descriptions of the sculpture, the art is actually indicating the kinds of burden of the homeless on the urban streets. The compilation of materials used for this piece of work is specifically referring to the present issues of homelessness and poverty amongst the black men in the United States. His sculptures are comparable to memorials of the descending world – materials used to construct the piece often described different events in historical pasts. In a way, the sculptures of Leonardo Drew are definitely classified as artefacts of memory (Enwezor 1994).

Memory work is the foremost important theme in contemporary life (Kenny 1999, 420). The process of reminiscing the past is a vigorously productive progression which partly involves the contribution of the past to cater the present needs (Schwartz 1982, 1). According to Raphael Samuel (1994), all the present day constructed buildings and heritage sites have altered the functions of both the landscapes and its surroundings. Now, in the contemporary world, they served as the ‘theatres of memory’ which included museums and their large scale artefacts collections, monuments such as Stonehenge, as well as theme parks (Holtorf and Williams 2006, 249). A re-visit to these newly existing ‘theatre of memory’ often send triggers to the memories of each and every single individuals of their personal past, and with the possibility of this happening proves that the once existing past or historical events which maybe one part belonging to different individuals are safely kept (or preserved) by the ‘vehicles of memory’ in their own way. Hence, with this, archaeologists maybe able to furthermore study or research, in detail, the interconnecting relationship between past people and landscapes with the assistance of the preserved memories.

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