Studying and Researching Remembrance,
Commemoration and Memorials
Ceremonies of Armistice Day and Remembrance are increasingly significant public events and war memorials remain a key element of the landscape of many cities, towns and villages. The forms and practices of commemoration are however changing, incorporating: formal and informal acts of remembrance, a role for broadcast and new media, museums, physical spaces, constructed memorials, pilgrimage, tourism and heritage.
Remembrance, Commemoration and Memorials are important areas of study in the context of modern Britain where many within the diverse population have not shared the experience of national war beyond the popular representations in media and museums. As Remembrance and Memorials are often tied up with issues of identity and nationhood there are questions to be asked as to how remembrance may develop in the diverse multi-cultural society and changing political climate that exist within Britain in the Twenty-First Century.
Remembrance is not necessarily focussed upon the armed forces, it is often about families those who are bereaved- for example the war widows garden or the SANDS Garden, sponsored by The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA). Indeed, in the Twentieth Century increasing number of civilians have become victims of armed conflict. Some of the largest public acts of remembrance in contemporary culture are disconnected from the armed forces and have taken place across national boundaries. For example it is estimated that between 1 and 2.5 billion people watched Princess Diana’s funeral on television in 1997, a figure that was probably surpassed in 2005 by the funeral of Pope John-Paul.
Public Commemoration is however only one part of people’s experience of loss and of sacrifice. Personal experience and recollection are for many more important, although coloured by the enormous complexity of shared and individual factors. An important area for consideration is therefore the inter-relationship between the public and private acts of Remembrance.
It is within this contemporary context that in 2008 the National Memorial Arboretum, The Royal British Legion, Staffordshire and Nottingham Universities initially set up a series of four seminars to discuss Remembrance, Commemoration and Memorials. These seminars built up a network of academics and practioners who share an interest in Remembrance and led to the publication of a book: Lest We Forget ? : Remembrance and Commemoration jointly edited by Professor Maggie Andrews, Dr Nigel Hunt and Charlie Bagot-Jewitt, published by The History Press in 2011.
The seminars have initially drawn together an inter-disciplinary group of approximately forty experts working in the fields of History and Heritage, International Relations and Politics, Psychology, Human Geography, Media and the Creative Arts, the Study of Religions and teacher training alongside practioners working for religious groups, in the Armed Forces, Education, the Mass Observation Archive, The Royal British Legion and at the National Memorial Arboretum.
The National Memorial Arboretum has now become a focus for study and research of Remembrance in Contemporary Culture. Seminars continue to be held twice a year and a Women’s History Network Conference, on a theme related to Women and War, takes place in March each year. A special edition of the Journal of War and Culture Studies, (Vol. 4, No. 3) on Remembrance, Commemoration and Memorials was published in January 2012 jointly edited by Professor Maggie Andrews, Dr Nigel Hunt and Charlie Bagot-Jewitt to continue to stimulate research on Remembrance. http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Issue,id=2135/
This website aims to provide details of study and research and activities related to Remembrance which take place at the National Memorial Arboretum. The site offers details and contacts for people who have participated in these seminars and there is a resources section with links to organisations, memorial sites and provides a list of references and reading. The noticeboard has space to publicise events and research.
If you are interested in attending the seminars and or have material that you would like put on the site please contact Professor Maggie Andrews. The next seminar on Veterans, Memory and Remembrance takes place on 22 February 2013.
Professor Maggie Andrews –University of Worcester
Convenors of the Seminar Series