Siena Memoryscape Program, Spring 2013
Most people tend to think of memory as an individual phenomenon; more often than not, however, memory is actually a collective activity. Consider the effort we put into memorializing individuals and events, archiving the past, and building spaces of ritual commemoration. These cultural practices not only highlight the collective nature of remembering, they also help us establish collective cultural identities. Humans remember together, and when they do they build bonds with one another that form the social fabric of any culture. What we remember and, equally important what we forget, often influences who we think we are. With these points in mind, the Visual Memoryscapes Project is an experimental effort to build a visual map of cultural landscapes of memory and, in doing so, to better understand how collective memory and cultural identity build upon and reinforce each other. We are fortunate to begin this experimental project in the medieval city of Siena, Italy. Home to over 1500 years of history and culture, Siena is an ideal space in which to study the connections between memory and identity. Students on the Siena program have created visual memory maps of the major memorial sites in Siena, discussing both their historical and contemporary cultural significance. They have drawn not only from published scholarly sources but also from the rich resources of the Sienese people. Included in the project are traditional memory sites like monuments and churches but also less traditional modalities such as street art, contrade, and gastronomy. We hope that the website offers future travelers a better understanding of the memory/identity interface as it emerges in the beautiful Etruscan city of Siena.