Essay The Space Of Memory: In An Archive By Carolyn Steedman

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Creative Histories Presentation

History is a narrative of human experience, written retrospectively. There is a process of evaluation and reflection that colours, interprets and reshapes events into patterns of memory that can be selective and distinctly individual. Authenticity and verifiable details make history a more reliable ‘story’ of human experience through the additional use of personal memories. Memory is fragile, often short term and highly subjective. The mind’s impact on memory can seriously affect a person’s life long after the events that are burned into memory have actually occurred.

This reading is Carolyn Steedman’s essay ‘The Space of Memory: In an Archive’- from her book Dust that analyses how modern historiography has developed.

By considering the experience of historians in national and regional archives, the relationship of memory to history and historical practice is discussed. The professional experience of historians is connected to wider social and psychological uses of the past, and of history in European societies, over the 200 years since official archives were inaugurated.

Through the use of archives,
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As history is “one of the great narrative modes that are our legacy from the 19th century” and is “a way of plotting and telling a life”, it becomes a way for the interpreter to represent themselves and form an identity. Going back to favourite historical figures, usually they are a person the historian admires and has researched, but is also someone they can relate and emphasise to. This search for representation, though less overwhelming than Steedman’s insinuations, does match with her psychoanalysis reasoning that the object being searched for “has been altered in the very search for it” so while “this is not to say that nothing is found, but that thing is always something else, a creation of the search and the duration of the

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