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Memory Studies Institute

Studying Memory, Forgetting, and Commemoration

Three Initiatives

The Memory Studies Institute encourages students to become involved in the very practices of remembrance that fashion traditions, mold ethnic identities, and influence race relations on a local, national, and international level. This includes everything from how politicians use popular memories of past wars to either justify or condemn military action to how local activists and politicians struggle to fund memorials for ethnic minorities. The institute opens to students the world of public memory and encourage them to critically engage memorial texts, including history textbooks, autobiographies, biographies, eulogies, monuments, museums, the list goes on. Curiously, at the same time that these objects have an immense amount of influence on contemporary politics (in terms of influencing local and national identity) they are also taken for granted as politically inert by most citizens. One objective of this institute, then, is to encourage students to re-politicize the artifacts of public memory by beginning to ask critical questions about what these objects mean, who created them, and how they influence public culture.

A second objective for the Institute is to establish a space for interdisciplinary research between scholars at Lewis and Clark and other universities. A critical mass of scholars working in the area of memory studies already exists at Lewis & Clark College. However, these scholars lack a space to develop collaborative projects that could potentially evolve into large research programs generating conferences, journal articles, edited volumes, and books—all of which would enhance the prestige of the College and position Lewis and Clark as a leader in interdisciplinary research.

The Institute’s third objective is to house an archive of resources for lesson planning, course development, and student research projects. Several professors are already using memory studies concepts in their classes to engage their students. The institute will eventually offer those professors an opportunity to systematically develop complete courses related to memory studies. The Institute will also offer instructors at Lewis and Clark and teachers in the local area resources, sample syllabi, and sample lessons for teaching issues of memory in the classroom. Finally, the Institute will provide students working on related projects resources for generating ideas and producing informed and critical projects.

 Although the Memory Studies Institute is still young, it has already directed a number of exciting programs since its formation in 2007. Below is a brief list of successful programming directed, promoted, and/or supported by the Memory Studies Institute. You can find more information on these events and programs via the links on the upper left of the page.


Recent and Continuing Programming :

  1. Heroes of Color Project: This program began in 2007 with Roosevelt high school It starts with Roosevelt students visiting the Lewis & Clark campus, after which L&C students go to Roosevelt and work with the high school students to develop presentations about different important people of color largely forgotten in American history. The program ends with a “shadowing” program in which interested Roosevelt students shadow an L&C student for part of a day, giving them a better sense of the world of higher education.
  2. Thank You for Arguing Program:
  3. Memory Studies Lecture Series: This lecture series began in 2009 with support of the Presidential Inititive Fund. We have successfully brought some of the best nationally and internationally known scholars to the LC Campus, including such luminaries as James Loewen, Erna Paris, and John Sutton. The goal of this lecture series is to explore the interdisciplinary nature of memory and promote collaborative work across disciplinary boundaries among students and faculty at the College.
  4. The York Memorial Project: York was William Clark’s slave. According to historical documents, he was large and athletic. He played an integral role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, once saving Clark’s life, yet he is largely absent from accounts of that famous journey. In fact, York is hardly known at all in contemporary public memory. His conspicuous absence marks an intersection between history, race, and ethnicity, signals the legacies of slavery that still plague American culture, and underscores the politics of public memory. Like so many other African Americans, York is an invisible hero in American history. His absence is an elegant metaphor for what is at stake in remembrance. The Memory Studies Institute recently supported a student lead effort to create a memorial to York on the College campus, which was successfully completed in 2011.
  5. Memory Studies Conference: In the Fall of 2007 the Institute organized and directed an Interdisciplinary/International conference focused on Public Memory and Ethnicity, out of which came an edited volume entitled Public Memory, Race, and Ethnicity. The Institute hopes to support similar efforts in the future.

Long Term Objectives:

  1. To promote diversity on the Lewis and Clark campus. Diversity and multicultural education is a priority at Lewis and Clark. The York Center is a natural outgrowth and a concrete sign of Lewis and Clark’s dedication to diversity. Indeed, the York Center signifies Lewis and Clark College’s own willingness to investigate the lore of its namesake and begin the process of critically questioning how the past is handed down and what its political and social ramifications are in the present.
  2. To establish relationships with the local community and with local political organizations pertaining to public memory studies. This would include investigating permanent sites of memory such as monuments and museums, but also getting involved and analyzing relevant social movements active in contemporary politics (i.e., the Reparations movement, the Holocaust and the middle east crisis, the building of new memorials, or the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day).
  3. To foster interdisciplinary research among different departments who are interested in issues of memory. At present, scholars in Rhetoric & Media Studies, History, Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, Psychology, and Political Science have all conducted research related to memory. This campus thus has a critical mass of scholars interested in these topics.
  4. To create links between the undergraduate, graduate, and law school faculty interested in memory studies at Lewis & Clark College.