Bearing Witness in Images, Paper, and Pixels: Memory Objects and their Creators

Authors: Perry Carter*, Texas Tech University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Landscape
Keywords: witness, memorials, memory objects, trauma studies, post-memory, American history
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


To bear witness is to validate or authenticate an incident. It is an acknowledgement this happened. Memorials bear witness. They are memory objects that express the significance of an event that occurred in the past. They remind us not to forget. We tend to think of memorials as substantial objects — placards, statues, buildings — yet they come in many forms. This project regards memory objects and the witnesses lying behind them for witnessing always presumes an observer. It is founded upon works in trauma studies and post-memory. Its locus of study is the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Whitney plantation museum, and the Manzanar National Historic Site. Its object of study are photographs of hanging rectangular boxes, a board filled with colorful post-it notes, and reviews posted on Google maps. These variegated memory objects all bear witness to dark episodes in the American narrative. These objects speak to the weight of what they represent, yet they also speak to the fact that we, well after the event, witness.

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