I have previously written about memory and archaeology; I reckon that the book that slowly changed my course of interest and made this topic insinuate in my life is Sherry Turkle’s “Evocative objects”. I still remember the day I first encountered it: sitting at a tucked away table in Western Bank Library, with the lovely view of the park and pond in front of me. Since then, a lot had to do also with the research of an archaeologist friend who has been studying the material culture of communist prisons (or better said of the inmates) or church objects seen as memory objects. The cherry on top came with 2 other studies: Mats Burström’s “Buried memories: wartime caches and family history in Estonia” (2013) and my finding at the latest EAA Conference, Saunders and Cornish’s lovely “Contested Objects: Material Memories of the Great War” book (2009; especially the chapter on the German steel helmet). It’s a tricky field this one, quite elusive at times, but for some reason I feel drawn to it more and more, which probably means that in the not so distant future I shall fully embrace it in my research. Til then, this is a good post which captures the feeling I consider one should aim for.
Today was the conclusion – for now – of nationally-expressed collective remembrance in a saturated media, and yet we are left as individuals to balance the narrative of sacrifice with mourning our own heroes, and reflect on our own stories of family tragedy.. the horror of war and what comes after.
I drove 40 miles north this morning, to the coast of North Norfolk, to my ancestral village. The church sits on a ridge, exposed to the wind, still bleak on a clear November morning. More than ten generations of my family lie there. Rooks call, the wind carrying their screams to the churchyard. Poppies cover the memorial to the fallen.
Two of those remembered are my Great-Great Uncles. These boys, Hayward and Norman, were just that – children. Simple, poor, agricultural labourers, with horizons stretching as far as three villages. And not beyond, until the national call to arms.
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