The Social Memory Problem

Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg

in Processing the Past

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199740543
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894673 | DOI:
The Social Memory Problem

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In various unreflected forms, the concept of "social memory" has been at the foundation of much modern archival organization and development. The U.S. National Archives, for example, were organized in part to assure that the "great American story" was properly remembered and told, something of paramount importance to many when the archives opened their doors in 1934. More recently, however, social memory has become a set of claims to identity, civil rights, and political position, contesting and complicating great national narratives. As such, the social memory problem presents a series of difficult problems about the kinds of “memory” archives can and should reflect as they acquire and preserve paper and digital documents. Social memory has taken on an authoritative role in historical understanding once reserved solely for the archive.

Keywords: memory; social memory; holocaust; usable pasts; social identity; traumatic events; commemoration; social amnesia; authority of memory

Chapter.  9239 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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