What’s makeshift is not the memories, actually, but the method of delivering them. In the past week, I have encountered two memory projects of interest – one at our local library and the other at a memorial service. I was most closely involved w
ith #2, but #1 caught my fancy as well. Let’s start there.
This, in case you can’t tell from the photo, is a listening station of World War II memories from local citizens. It is almost retro in its simplicity. I couldn’t resist trying it out. There’s a boom box, and you pick one of four thematic edited recordings. I picked one on victory gardens. The sound was fine, and the story was well edited, and the directions (just put on the headphones and pick the track) were clear. There was also a transcript of the story. In this world of everything online and high(er) tech, the hands-on quality of this method of delivery was refreshing. Bravo, Arlington County Public Library!
The second example was at a very moving memorial for recently passed Smithsonian Under Secretary for Education, Claudine Brown. My friend Diana recruited me (very willingly of course) and her interns to help with the crafting of a participatory memory quilt made from paper. The premise was, again, very simple and even lower tech than the listening station: attach heart-shaped post it notes to attractive squares of craft paper and let anyone so moved write/draw a message or symbol or some combination in honor of Claudine. The squares were hole-punched in the middle of each of the four sides, and then connected to each other with pipe cleaner pieces. As you can see, the display method was also simple: we borrowed a yellow (Claudine’s favorite color) tablecloth from the caterers of the event, and covered a big sheet of alligator board (from a sign left over from the 2004 World War II Memorial opening event, which was hanging around in our office, somehow very fitting!) and balanced it on several chairs. It was a little curvy, a little funky, but still very beautiful in its own way.
The only trick was getting the table cloth out from under in order to return it to the caterers. But we managed, and hopefully the quilt will have an afterlife. I am sure Claudine would have liked the ingenuity and simplicity. She probably would have approved of the library listening station too.