collective memory

> collectief geheugen

collective memory > collectief geheugen [English/Dutch]

Collective memory can be seen as a collection of memories shared by a group of individuals.

A collective memory can arise when a group of people witness a specific event. The collective memory can also already be there, but a particular event can reinforce it. This witnessing creates a connection between those people. The memory that has been created by this group is then retold and, in this way, stories, anecdotes, legends, etc. are created.

Collective memory is of great importance within a culture. The passing on of stories is necessary if we don’t want them to be forgotten. This passing on happens through different media like spoken word and written language, but also through film, visual arts and theatre. Consequently, collective memory is passed on and maintained throughout these different forms of culture.

Reminders of a collective memory are continuously around us to make sure that every passer-by is reminded of the events from a different time. Art is a way to preserve and to show the collective memory of a certain group. It makes the spectator relive the tales of a time that has long been gone, but it also provides the chance to share new stories. Even the very way of sharing old stories can be seen as a means to stimulate the creation of a collective memory.

The sharing and remembering of memories allow them to live on. Even if every witness has his or her own perception of the memory, it is broadly the same for everyone. In a certain way, collective memory is a living thing. On the one hand, it can die out when no one pays attention to it. On the other hand, it will keep growing as long as people keep sharing their memories.. 

Author and translator: Nikki Loohuizen