Introduction: mediated memories
Memories are mediated. All memories are mediated, actually. Without mediation, we would have no memories. Even when we simply remember some event from our childhood, we frame our memories in words, images, language and so on. And remembering on a social level makes even more obvious that all memories are mediated. We recollect with our friends and family through the use of pictures, movies, or particular objects. On a collective and national level we recall historical events via newspapers, museums, archives and films. We need media not only to be able to share memories, but even to have them. Instead of saying that “in order to be mediated, memory should be materialised either in material objects or in particular embodiments or images” (Võsu, Kõresaar, & Kuutma, 2008, p. 255), it is more accurate to claim that memory has to be mediated in order to exist.
When we bear this importance of mediation in mind, it is actually strange to see how many scholars are engaged in memory studies, and how few of them have focused on the medium instead of on memory itself. Already in the 1960s McLuhan (2001) asserted that “the medium is the message”, which means no less than that the medium should be studied in order to understand its message – or in this case – memory. In this project we will be looking at the special qualities of a medium that mediates as well personal as familial as national as historical as political memories: the museum. The museum is a “public open space[s] where memory is explored, produced and performed with the help of new media technologies” (Assmann 1999 in Võsu et al., 2008, p. 256). In order to understand the ways in which the museum is its message, the central question in this project is:
Which specific qualities does the physical museum have on the one hand and the virtual museum on the other, and how do these qualities form the collective memories that the Armenian genocide Museum and Institute (AGMI) passes on via either the one or the other medium?
In order to answer this question we will relate our own experiences of the physical and virtual museum to relevant theories of literary critics and social scientists. We decided to share the outcomes of these thoughts via different posts on this weblog. Each post deals with a specific quality of the physical and virtual museum. Feel free to decide yourself which quality of the Armenian genocide museum you are most interested in and which one you would like to start with. If you are not that familiar with the topic yet, we recommend you to start with some small elaboration on how museums relate the past to the present. Anyway, don’t forget to write down your comments before you leave our website!