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Painting of Apollo and the Nine Muses

Cultural Memory

The Cultural Memory strand is about memory as placing, remembrance, cultural connection, recreation, performance and rewriting as a creative act. It is led by Professor Juliet Simpson FRSA, FRHistS.

Theme overview

Research within the cultural memory strand is concerned with the importance and meanings of sites, monuments, art-works, objects, images and texts in shaping histories and identities of memory and belonging. Asking new questions about why and how the past matters for the present and for future memory making, our research encompasses arts, places, diverse cultures and geographies of memory and community across the globe. We explore new ways in which memory is fundamental to histories and stories of art, of cultures, peoples and voices to illuminate and understand diverse and hidden pasts. Our work interrogates their pivotal significance in creating new ideas about ownership of memory, where and to whom memory ‘belongs’. We seek to bring to new attention, unvoiced stories, creations and entangled memory, to shed light on their emotional power, and how memory connects us with a richer, more inclusive understanding of the value of art and culture for present and future world-making.

Comprising art historians, cultural historians, specialists in visual and material cultures, the history of photography, design and spatial cultures, literature and languages, image and text studies, digital humanities, visual and performance artists and curators, our key research interests include:

  • The Arts of Memoria, collecting and the invention of pictorial memory
    Commemorative cultures in texts, monuments and objects from early modernity to the present
  • Museums as Memory and Medium
  • Women, science and memory in art and culture
  • Afterlives of medieval and Renaissance cultures in objects, images and texts in modern and contemporary art and cultures
  • Memory, Climate and Race in the British Atlantic World
  • ‘Lieux de mémoire’: Monuments and Memoryscapes in modern and contemporary France
  • Crossing Cultures: Transnational identities of art and memory in the long nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • Art and memory in Post-Colonial India
  • Photography and Imaging the American Civil War
  • Polish Communities in London – Reimagining Cultural Identities of Belonging
  • ‘Reconstructing’/Sensing Pasts – Artistic Practices of Memory
  • Hidden worlds: reinventing urban memory/cities in architecture, interiors, spaces and sites of craft
  • Gendered Image/Memory
  • Ancient Greek Comedy and Cultures; gender in Antiquity-present; performance in voice/poetic cultures
  • Corpora, Culture and Coding – new perspectives on linguistic patterns and diversity shape and communicate collective language acts and memory
  • Press, print and memory: regional voice, place and institutions in connecting histories and local communities
  • Embodied, emotional histories of memory in contemporary word and image cultures

Example projects

Veiled Cities – Haunted Urban Realities in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

This project on ‘Veiled Cities – Haunted Urban Realities’ is addressed to art, cultural and memory historians of urban spaces between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as of the art, literature, music that solemnized the city.

Polish Émigrés in London

This project seeks to establish the ways in which Polish émigrés contributed to debates concerning empire and how race and racial identity shaped engagement with discussions of imperial issues.

Gothic Modern, 1870s-1920s - From Munch to Kollwitz 

Gothic Modern, 1870s-1920s is the first in-depth study to explore the pivotal importance of late medieval Gothic art for the artistic modernisms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries.

A Floating World: Memory, Climate and Race in the British Atlantic World

Drawing on an interdisciplinary body of scholarship that combines the history and science of climate change with literary and cultural histories, racial theories, and feminist ecocriticism, this project develops a view of premodern climate change as anthropogenic and racialised, and investigates how local phenomena register global conditions.

Return to Sender: Mapping Memory Journeys in the Europeana 1914-1918 Postcard Archive

This project aims to create new findings about how World War I affected movement and communication across Europe.

Image credit: Raphael, The Parnassus – Apollo and the Nine Muses, 1509-11 (Vatican: Apostolic Palace). Commons Wikimedia (public domain).

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