Memories Worth Our Time
As I worked through the readings, one caught my attention the most. Steve Zeitlin’s piece “Where Are the Best Stories? Where is My Story? Participation and Curation in a New Media Age” discussed his project City of Memory. I really enjoyed this project and how it might represent history and the memories people hold.
I had some issues with this project though. City of Memory is meant to be a collaborative and public project. An issue I could see coming from this project is that the curators pick which memories are included and remove others that are not interesting enough. I feel that taking out memories that are not as interesting as others leaves out a chunk of history that is just as important as the interesting pieces.
Individual memory contributes to communal memory. I believe that both of these can be effected by the events of the time that the memories created. If we choose which memories to leave out, we are choosing to ignore that person’s interpretation of what was happening. These three categories are separate to a point, but all point back to one another.
Allowing certain people to pick and choose which memories are most important divides people into two categories: experts and non-experts. By allowing the experts to pick which pieces of history are most important. I believe that these experts pick memories based on what the public would want to see and would find interesting. The interesting pieces of information do not give the whole story though.
I have learned more from stories that at first seem uninteresting. As a psychology, major there are many studies and stories out there that are boring. If we left all of those things out, we would not be where we are as a field.
This is why I liked the City of Memory project. If this idea was applied to certain fields of interest it would be easier to allow personal memories to be included. An example would be if we used this model to allow people to share their memories about the Tuskegee study about how untreated syphilis effected the men. This study was conducted from 1932-1972 and still affects people in the African-American community today.
What if we had this technology after World War II for returning soldiers? Imagine the personal stories that our veterans could have shared. Those stories would not be popular with the public, but I believe they should have been shared. This is how we learned that the soldiers on Iwo Jima raised a second flag on the island, and that is the picture we have come to know and love.
Besides the psychological effects of keeping those stories to themselves, imagine the level of understanding the civilian population could have achieved. Instead we let those veterans keep their stories to themselves, and the general population never quite understood why they had the psychological problems that they did.
By appealing to the public, we lose a huge chunk of personal memories that contribute to history. Not everybody would necessarily agree that we should keep these stories, but we shouldn’t let that stop us.
I believe that individuals and communities have an obligation to include all pieces of history. Are we really learning the truth about our past if parts of it are being left out because it does not directly appeal to the public? I believe we are not. We need to see the whole picture of a situation to be able to learn from it.
That is why I believe these public projects, such as City of Memory, are a good idea if they include all parts of the topic. I realize that this could get messy. This could be kept neat by categorizing projects. For an example let’s look at World War II. There could be a separate category for people to post in depending on which country or island they fought on. There could also be categories for each branch of the military that participated.
Public participation in historical exhibits is the only way to gather the most information. This is why I enjoy the digital and public humanities. It puts the power of information in our own hands. Like I said earlier, we have an obligation to no longer keep pieces of history secret. There is no excuse any more either because we have the opportunity at our fingertips.
Some pieces shared may make people angry or sad, but that should not stop us from sharing these pieces and making them publicly accessible. I can not even begin to imagine how much information about certain events we stand to gain by having these public exhibits created. I hope that some day more people than just this class will care about digital and public humanities and the positive impact it could have. This class can start sharing information with our final projects. What a great way to start using the digital and public humanities, especially in a way that will be accessible to more than just the people signed up for this class.
Zeitlin, Steve. “Where Are the Best Stories? Where Is My Story? Participation and Curation in a New Media Age.” Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. Ed. Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011.