Memory is the Library of the Mind

“Disregard for the past will never do us any good. Without it we cannot know truly who we are.” This saying holds true because if nothing is done to record the events and tragedies of our ancestors’ past lives, mankind will never truly evolve as a species. We will just be in a constant cycle of living and dying without making any true progress or accomplishments as a species. Unfortunately, with all the different events that occur in a generation’s timeline, it will be difficult to remember every single detail in history. One solution to this dilemma was the creation of libraries, where people can externalize their memories and store it into a single location. melk_-_abbey_-_library

Melk Benedictine Abbey Library

The creation and use of libraries has been a practice since ancient times, dating back to about 600 BCE. The first systematically organized library that was discovered was in Nineveh, which is known as the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal. The owner of this library was King Ashurbanipal, who was the ruler of the Neo-Assyrian Empire at the time. It was reported that over 30000 cuneiform clay tablets were discovered. The library was said to be have organized by subject, which included history, poetry, government science and much more. In the picture below, one tablet that was discovered was part of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

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But as time passed, people noticed the importance of libraries and realized that they were necessary to collect information of externalize memories into pieces to be stored. Because tablets took up a lot of room, people needed a new form to better manage and store collections, instead of carving it into a stone or clay tablet. That’s when humans found a new form or writing, which was to write things down in papyrus plants. These plants were the paper of the olden days, where they were lighter, durable, and easier to manage then tablets. This new innovation was one of the next stepping stones to the modern libraries of today because it introduced people to paper and scrolls, which would later lead to books.

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Picture of a Papyrus Scroll

As centuries have passed, humans have made technological breakthroughs and discoveries that have lead to massive changes in the practices that have been around for centuries. One of these changes has been the use of libraries and the storing of information into libraries. Advancements, such as the internet and computer, have made libraries more easier to use because now you can search through millions of documents and records in a matter of seconds to narrow down searches. One of the most famous modern libraries is the Library of Congress. 11603r

The Library of Congress is one of the most famous libraries of the twenty-first century and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. It has an estimated 161 million physical pieces in its collection in 470 languages. Many of these books, pieces, articles, etc, can be found in databases and archives online in the library. This rapid progression in technological advances has lead more digitalized era, where mostly everything can be found online. Externalizing memories has never been made easier, as now people can upload information directly to the internet in a matter of seconds. And as techno0logy keeps on evolving, it’s only a matter of time before libraries get rid of book and paper all together and turn to the digital world. Welcome back students.

The National 9/11 Memorial Site-Why do we Remember?

Memories. Why do we remember? How do we remember? What is the significance of taking a traumatic experience-in particular-and traslating it into an external memory? Memorial sites associated with some sort of grave tragedy are some of the most widely utilized forms of external commemoration in our world, today. From the Pearl Harbor museum to roadside memorials, we are able to clearly see our human need to transform sites associated with tragedy into something of great significance to either a group of individuals or-on a grander scale-to entire population, but why is this necessary? Why is it important for us to remember tragic events and externalize these memories in the form of memorial sites?

September 11th, 2001. America’s greatest personal tragedy since the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor. A day on which hundreds of lives were lost due to senseless acts of violence…acts that would launch America into a war that would last for well over a decade. It was a day in which we all were forced to bear witness to an unspeakable acts of terrorism as we watched the Twin Towers embodying our World Trade Center were destroyed. In addition to the thousands of lives lost on that fateful day, our strength as a nation was was called into question. So, why do we choose to remember an event bathed in such tragedy through sites such as the National September 11th Memorial?

According to ideas presented in an article by Billie Pivnick, “The memorial at the site of the former World Trade Center is meant to be seen as a means of helping us–as a nation–commemorate, honor, educate, and mourn the events that took place as well as the lives lost on that day.” It is his understanding that the act of memorializing involves shared memory and collective grieving. From this point of view, we might be able to infer that the active rituals that accompany memorial activity–particularly the construction of memorial sites such as the 9/11 Memorial Museum–is meant to help those directly affected by tragedy come together in an effort to cope with the loss and the fear that stems from such emotional trauma as well as to commemorate and mourn the lives of all who were lost on that fateful day.

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An interesting characteristic of National September 11 Memorial site is that it spans around half of the 16 acre lot on which the World Trade Center originally stood. Because of its geographical location along with the sheer magnitude of the tragedy that which is being memorialized, this particular memorial site holds a certain degree of significance to Americans across the country as it is representative of our ability to externalize our recollection of such a tragic event. According to the Mission Statement section found on the official 9/11 memorial website, the explicit purpose of the construction of the memorial and museum is to, “Remember and honor the thousands of innocent men, women, and children murdered by terrorists in the horrific attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001. Respect this place made sacred through tragic loss. And to recognize the endurance of those who survived, the courage of those who risked their lives to save others, and the compassion of all who supported us in our darkest hours.” In doing so, this site has in turn become a symbol of our resilience and strength as a nation.

As a general concensous, I believe it’s fair to say that through the externalization of memories through memorial sites–traumatic memories in particular–we as individuals as well as a population (in more catastrophic cases) are able to come together and mourn the lives of those lost to tragic events.