I'm a bit of a nut for material culture. I love the idea that an artefact can give us clues to a culture, a place, a particular moment, a sentiment, an ideology, or a score of other realities of the past or present. One of my favourite things to think about is contemporary memorials as artefacts. On the left is a picture of Berlin's Holocaust Memorial. It was completed in 2005. If we compare all of the aspects of this new memorial to those of older ones, we can get some insight into how we've changed our memorial strategies (if we have at all). Then, we can consider what kind of memorial strategies will be effective for ongoing projects (see, for example, Berlin's future memorials to the Sinti and Roma, and homosexual victims of the Third Reich). Fine, this is simple enough. Far from 'just' toodling around, poking at history because it's neat, this is a way that students and practitioners of history can operate with a practical purpose in mind. (I must add that I see nothing wrong with "poking at history because it's neat." History is neat, and deserves to be poked at).
Tags: material culture, Holocaust Memorial, history