Three medieval worlds and the social memory of cultural heritage sites.

Three medieval worlds and the social memory of cultural heritage sites.

Grzegorz Kiarszys


The presented book “Three medieval worlds. Iuxta castrum Sandouel” aims to tell the stories of the remains of medieval strongholds in the cultural landscape of the Góra district (Lower Silesia Region, Poland) and to restore their presence in the social discourse. The research project was financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, coordinated by the National Heritage Board of Poland, with the aid from Archeo Landscapes Europe. The studies focus on the relics of early medieval strongholds and late medieval motte castles located in the Lower Silesia Region, Poland. These features are often considered as mysterious objects of anthropogenic origin. However, their original purpose and cultural value is seldom recognized by the local community.

Relatively low historical awareness in the western Poland results from the historical context of those territories. After the end of World War II, due to decisions made at the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, the eastern part of the Third Reich was put under Polish administration. The local German population was replaced by Polish settlers from the eastern and central territories. Post-war reality in western Poland caused the meaning of archaeological and historical monuments to be devalued. Polish citizens, resettled to the western territories, perceived the landscape as “alien” or “German”. After the horror of war they were unable to recognize the heritage sites or imagine their abstractive value and identify with it. In their eyes the landscape of “Regained Territories” didn’t have any past or tradition worth to acknowledging and commemorating. Historical and archaeological monuments were not seen as their property.

On the other hand, the communistic ideology was about creating the new social order; it exploited the past for political reasons, developing interest only in specific archaeological sites, for example those related to the early Polish Piast monarchy. Such archaeological sites could later be used in the discourse of propaganda and to justify border shifts after World War II. Along with the disappearance of archaeological earthworks from the Polish topographical maps, they also vanished from the awareness of the local population, losing their cultural value. The consequence of that process had a great impact on the contemporary perception of cultural heritage in western Poland.

Archaeological sites can be valued due to their physical form and state of preservation, as well as their chronology or relationship with historic events that are considered to be important. As soon as such a place is identified and significant, it starts to play a part in contemporary social discourse, receiving a new cultural context. This can be created in relation to different roles such as education, or become an active part of the construction of social identity.

The non-invasive archaeological methods can be useful for popularizing of archaeology and widening the awareness of historical places in local societies. Application of such methods as: aerial photography (both archival and contemporary), Airborne Laser Scanning, magnetometry and historical cartography can be valuable, not only for professional archaeological landscape studies, but also in the process of construction of a narrative about the biography of specific archaeological features.

Archaeology can produce a persuasive and aesthetic background for the contemporary social discourse. Restoring the memory of archaeological heritage sites in the region, with the aid of a properly constructed narrative and visualisation of specific monuments, can revive the imagination of local society and fill in the empty places with stories being told once again.

 

A Future-Proof Heritage: Dutch Ice and Intangible Heritage

A Future-Proof Heritage: Dutch Ice and Intangible Heritage

Archaeology and Material Culture

Hendrick Avercamp, Enjoying the ice (circa 1615-1620. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam; click for expanded view). Hendrick Avercamp, Enjoying the ice (circa 1615-1620. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam; click for expanded view).

Four centuries ago Hendrick Avercamp immortalized the Dutch winter landscape as a snowscape crowded with ice skaters traversing canals and gathering on frozen ponds.  Painting in the early 17th century, Avercamp’s works are almost wholly devoted to winter scenes that feature numerous people skating.  Avercamp’s idyllic landscapes featured a rich cross-section of people having fun on the ice during a “little Ice Age” that delivered a half-millennium of harsh winters.  Avercamp’s focus on ice and ice skating helped make winter landscapes a staple of Dutch art while confirming skating’s centrality in the heart of the Dutch imagination.

Avercamp may not have known that Netherlanders would spend the subsequent centuries traveling and playing on frozen waterways, leading numerous 21st-century observers to sound off that skating is “ingrained in Dutch DNA

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History of the Computer Memory

History of the Computer Memory

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, U.S.,  is a nonprofit organization with a four-decade history as the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society. The Museum is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computer history and is home to the largest international collection of computing artifacts in the world, encompassing computer hardware, software, documentation, ephemera, photographs, oral histories, and moving images.

The Museum brings computer history to life through large-scale exhibits, an acclaimed speaker series, a dynamic website, docent-led tours and education program. The Museum seeks to preserve a comprehensive view of computing history, one that includes the machines, software, business and competitive environments, personal recollections, and social implications of one of humankind’s most important invention – the Computer.

Computer History Museum - Revolution-gallery
Computer History Museum – Revolution – exhibition

The Gwen Bell Artifact and Book Collection comprises written works and physical objects relating to early calculating instruments and methods. These works and objects are held in the permanent collection of the Computer History Museum after generous gifts in 2012 and 2014 by Museum co-founders Gwen and Gordon Bell. The text items in this collection comprise works written in French, German, Latin and English. It begins in the early 17th century (ending in about 1980) and includes dozens of works such as mathematical, accounting, farming, astronomy, merchant and engineering tables, monographs on slide rules, arithmometers, planimeters, sectors, Napier´s Bones, military compasses, telescopes, as well as later-day commentaries on these instruments and their history. The written works are available online in scanned (PDF) form.

Computer History Museum-Enigma-encryption-decryption-device-parts-ca-1930
Computer History Museum-Enigma-encryption-decryption-device-parts-ca-1930

The object collection was established as a complement to the rare book collection and both serve to document the early origins and development of human measurement and computation. Its objects include: abaci, sectors, linear, circular and cylindrical slide rules, mechanical and electrical/electronic adding machines and calculators, and replicas of early calculators such as the Pascaline and the Schikard. With both written sources and complementary physical objects, the Bell Collection offers a unique window into the early origins and development of history´s most significant calculating devices and methods.

Computer History Museum-Abacus-500-ad
Computer History Museum-Abacus-500-ad

The Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing exhibition presents the history of computing, from mysterious ancient devices, like the traditional chinese SUAN PAN ABACUS to technologies of the future, like the cloud-based network-attached storage solutions for online backup. You can take a virtual tour through 19 galleries, each dedicated to a different aspect of computing. You can discover the backstories, development drama and astonishing breakthroughs of the gadgets, gurus, and the biggest computer companies in the world.

The Timeline of Computer History presents the memory and storage history, starting from 1947 and the Williams-Kilburn tube  – the first high-speed, entirely electronic memory. Throughout the magnetic memory, the magnetic tape, the concept of virtual memory, first small and minicomputers, memory chip and mass storage system, we are getting near to the present computer memory storages: the flash drives, the Blu-ray optical discs, the cloud-based services and the dropbox.

References:

http://www.computerhistory.org/

http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/gwenbell/

http://www.computerhistory.org/exhibits/revolution/

http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/memory-storage

http://www.computerhistory.org/planvisit/_media/docs/chm-visitor-map.pdf

http://www.computerhistory.org/planvisit/_media/docs/chm-1hr-tour.pdf

How these powerful masks are helping combat veterans heal — ideas.ted.com

Art therapist Melissa Walker uses masks to allow service members with traumatic brain injuries to express their deepest emotions and experiences, helping them and their loved ones heal. Most people wear masks to obscure or change their identities. But through a unique art therapy program, veterans are using them to reveal truths — often painful…

via Gallery: How these powerful masks are helping combat veterans heal — ideas.ted.com

Cemitério dos Prazeres and Memory of the Dead

Cemitério dos Prazeres and Memory of the Dead

Cemeteries are one of the most impressive reflexes of an historic moment in a certain culture. Therefore, it is rather understandable why southern Europe cemeteries present features that cannot be easily found in Great Britain cemeteries, for example. However, if we look closer to Portuguese cemeteries, we can easily distinguish it from the Spanish, the French or even from the Italian ones.

Francisco Queiroz

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The rainy and gloomy November especially encourages to do some reflection and meditation on the transience, the death and the fragility of human life. This is the best time for remembering the dead and visiting cemeteries. The Western world celebrates in this particular time of the year the Halloween, the All Saints’ Day, the All Souls’ Day from 31st October to 2nd November. At that time cemeteries are illuminated by thousands of candles and sunk in flowers, like in Poland. However, during the rest part of the year the final resting places are usually empty.

In the last week of October this year I visited the famous Prazeres Cemetery in Lisbon, just before the upcoming holidays. Portuguese transport has switched already to the winter timetable, but the temperature was still high (ca. 27-29 degrees Celsius) and the sun was shining beautifully. So there was not a bit of the so called “November atmosphere” which I described above. It was completely different, in fact. The Prazeres Cemetery was almost empty. I saw only a few tourists and I met two old ladies, who were taking care of the graves of their dead spouses. We had some conversation  and frankly they complained a bit that since the cemetery has become a monument the cost of upkeeping the graves increased significantly.
I walked around the cemetery around 1.5 hours and I really felt myself like visiting a ghost town, a city of the dead. The plan of the streets, squares, monuments, mausoleums, chapels and avenues with the houses of the dead corresponds 1:1 to the normal city plan, a living city. Nevertheless, the net curtains in the tombs’ windows looked a little spooky and caused me a bit of an unpleasant shudder. And the coffins visible directly through the glass… This is not a daily view, even at a cemetery. Modernly, we are more accustomed to burying the coffin with the body in the ground or to a discrete cremation rather then exposure of coffins with corpses. A certain order of things had been infringed and that was probably the reason why I felt a bit strange and slightly uncomfortable.
Beyond the beautiful nineteenth century romantic architecture and the scenic location, the Prazeres Cemetery is also well known from the oldest and largest concentration of the cypresses on the Iberian Peninsula. These long-lived trees bring incredible peace and dignity by their presence and are the characteristic elements of this landscape. And the cats are the only living inhabitants of the Prazeres Cemetery, I suppose. They behaved very calmly and very freely, so you could conjecture that the cemetery is probably their living environment, their home. It is significant that the more we move to the south of Europe, the greater dominance of the cats in the cities we observe. Sometimes they took such a pose that they looked like a guardians, absolutely focused and concentrated. Just like the mythical Cerberus,  guarding the entrance to the underworld…
* * *
The Prazeres Cemetery was originally created to handle the thousands of victims of the cholera epidemic in 1833-34.  By 1839, wealthier families began to build monuments.  Several hundred tombs were build between 1839 and1850 alone.  Many important names figures of Portuguese arts and politics are buried here.  The Prazeres Cemetery became the model for most cemeteries in the center and south of Portugal, and is the most cosmopolitan cemetery still existing in the nation.

Before the grounds were converted into a cemetery, it was a collective of farms by the name of Quinta dos Prazeres in which you could find gardens, vineyards and orchards. It’s location, with a beutiful view of the Tejo river, was noble indeed, positioned near Dom Pedro II’s Royal Palace in Alcântara and the other royal parties.

In the XVI century the farm was converted into a refuge for people suffering diseases like smallpox, the plague and yellow fever. Eventually, thanks to the the cholera morbus epidemic in the 1830s, the whole area was designated as a final resting place for the local aristocracy. It was run by the nuns from the Convento de Boa Morte (Good Death Convent) until 1834.

* * *

References:

http://portugalconfidential.com/10-intriguing-cemeteries-of-portugal/

http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/en/equipments/equipment/info/cemiterio-dos-prazeres

http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/equipamentos/equipamento/info/museu-cemiterio-dos-prazeres

http://www.ucityguides.com/cities/10-famous-cemeteries.html

http://www.atlaslisboa.com/cemiterio-dos-prazeres/

http://queirozportela.com/cemetpo.htm

The Baltic Way. Memory of solidarity and non-violent fight for freedom

The Baltic Way. Memory of solidarity and non-violent fight for freedom

23 August 1989: Human chain linking Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
in their drive for freedom

Vilnius – Širvintos – Ukmergė – Panevėžys – Pasvalys – Bauska – Iecava – Ķekava – Rīga – Vangaži – Sigulda – Līgatne – Drabeši – Cēsis – Lode – Valmiera – Jēči – Lizdēni – Rencēni – Oleri – Zasi – Rūjiena – Koniņi – Nuija – Karksi – Viljandi – Türi – Rapla – Tallin


UNESCO Memory of the World
Dr Algirdas Jakubčionis, Lietuvos Nacionalinis Muziejus

On 23 August 1939 foreign ministers of the USSR and Germany – Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop, as ordered by their superiors Stalin and Hitler, signed a treaty which affected the fate of Europe and the entire world. This pact, and the secret clauses it contained, divided the spheres of influence of the USSR and Germany and led to World War II, and to the occupation of the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

50 years later, on 23 August 1989, the three nations living by the Baltic Sea surprised the world by taking hold of each other’s hands and jointly demanding recognition of the secret clauses in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the re-establishment of the independence of the Baltic States. More than a 1,5 million people joined hands to create a 600 km long human chain from the foot of Toompea in Tallinn to the foot of the Gediminas Tower in Vilnius, crossing Riga and the River Daugava on its way, creating a synergy in the drive for freedom that united the three countries.The Baltic Way was organised by the national movements of each of the Baltic States: the Popular Front of Estonia Rahvarinne, the Popular Front of Latvia and the Lithuanian Reform Movement Sąjūdis.

The preparation for the Baltic Way took place in the summer of 1989. According to the plan, the Baltic Way had to start at the Gediminas Tower in Lithuania, continue through the Latvian capital Riga by the Freedom Monument and end at Tall Hermann’s Tower in Tallinn. The Baltic Way was 650 kilometres of freedom, in which ca. 1,5 million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians had to stand with their hands joined in a live human chain, though actually their number reached 2 millions. Lithuania was assigned a 200 kilometre section of the way. It was divided into 50 smaller sections symbolizing the years of the occupation. These sections had to be filled with inhabitants of various Lithuanian cities and towns. Certain sections of the way were allotted for representatives of various occupations and organisations. For example, the section from the Vilnius Cathedral to the Green Bridge over the Neris river was assigned for the deportees.

The Baltic Way was a phenomenon which showed how three small countries – the Baltic States, regardless of their unique individual national characteristics, created a cross-cultural spiritual synergy both internally and between the Baltic States in the name of a common goal – to overcome the consequences of World War II and to destroy the totalitarian regimes. The Baltic Way is a historic symbol that is alive in the collective memory, enriching the understanding of the sense and values of solidarity and freedom of expression.

* * *

References:

http://www.lnm.lt/en/gediminas-castle-tower/

http://www.balticway.net/index.php?hl=en

http://baltikett.ajaloomuuseum.ee/eng/index.html

Youthful Memory in Superaging

Youthful Memory in Superaging

Youthful Brains in Older Adults: Preserved Neuroanatomy in the Default Mode and Salience Networks Contributes to Youthful Memory in Superaging

Felicia W. Sun, Michael R. Stepanovic, Joseph Andreano, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Alexandra Touroutoglou and Bradford C. Dickerson


ABSTRACT

Decline in cognitive skills, especially in memory, is often viewed as part of “normal” aging. Yet some individuals “age better” than others. Building on prior research showing that cortical thickness in one brain region, the anterior midcingulate cortex, is preserved in older adults with memory performance abilities equal to or better than those of people 20–30 years younger (i.e., “superagers”), we examined the structural integrity of two large-scale intrinsic brain networks in superaging: the default mode network, typically engaged during memory encoding and retrieval tasks, and the salience network, typically engaged during attention, motivation, and executive function tasks. We predicted that superagers would have preserved cortical thickness in critical nodes in these networks. We defined superagers (60–80 years old) based on their performance compared to young adults (18–32 years old) on the California Verbal Learning Test Long Delay Free Recall test. We found regions within the networks of interest where the cerebral cortex of superagers was thicker than that of typical older adults, and where superagers were anatomically indistinguishable from young adults; hippocampal volume was also preserved in superagers. Within the full group of older adults, thickness of a number of regions, including the anterior temporal cortex, rostral medial prefrontal cortex, and anterior midcingulate cortex, correlated with memory performance, as did the volume of the hippocampus. These results indicate older adults with youthful memory abilities have youthful brain regions in key paralimbic and limbic nodes of the default mode and salience networks that support attentional, executive, and mnemonic processes subserving memory function.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT

Memory performance typically declines with age, as does cortical structural integrity, yet some older adults maintain youthful memory. We tested the hypothesis that superagers (older individuals with youthful memory performance) would exhibit preserved neuroanatomy in key brain networks subserving memory. We found that superagers not only perform similarly to young adults on memory testing, they also do not show the typical patterns of brain atrophy in certain regions. These regions are contained largely within two major intrinsic brain networks: the default mode network, implicated in memory encoding, storage, and retrieval, and the salience network, associated with attention and executive processes involved in encoding and retrieval. Preserved neuroanatomical integrity in these networks is associated with better memory performance among older adults.


Full open access research for “Youthful Brains in Older Adults: Preserved Neuroanatomy in the Default Mode and Salience Networks Contributes to Youthful Memory in Superaging” in Journal of Neuroscience:

The Journal of Neuroscience, 14 September 2016, 36(37): 9659-9668; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1492-16.2016

Featured image source: Preserved hippocampal volume—a key node in the default mode network— correlates with preserved memory in elderly adults. Felicia W. Sun et al. J. Neurosci. 2016;36:9659-9668 ©2016 by Society for Neuroscience

http://www.jneurosci.org/content/36/37/9659/F4.expansion.html