Why observing anniversaries/ commemorations is so important?

In the last two decades, events in "historical time" (e.g. end of the Cold War, decline of utopian socialist ideologies focused on the future, the rise of post-structuralist philosophy which increased the analytical attention to issues of representation, among other events) converged with events in "commemorative time" (largely though not entirely the 50th anniversary of WW2, the bicentennial of the French Revolution, the centennial of Pasteur and the Pasteur Institute, "DNA at 50", among other major commemorative events or anniversaries), to create a major cultural preoccupation, often called "commemorative mania" with how the past had been or should be remembered and marked. This constant appeal to the past - anniversaries are precisely occasions which link the present with the past - further reflects a wider interest in rapidly changing forms of identity in an era of globalization and rapid social and political change.

Why should you do it right?

You may have already faced the challenge of presiding over the complex process of assembling, integrating, and circulating the scientific legacy of a colleague, a lab, or a research center. "Doing justice" to "a life in science," so it can reward a dedicated scientist, as well as inspire future generations, has become a daunting challenge. "Anniversary volumes" as the current format of choice combine rambling recollections and unconnected scientific projects, while lacking any historical reference. Whether one looks at recent events such as "DNA at 50" (Appendix 3) and "Columbia at 250" (Appendix 2), or at anniversary/ memorial volumes produced in the last 30 years (Appendix 4) one is amazed to find superficial, inaccurate, unfocused, or limited coverage volumes, purporting to represent the legacy of a lifetime of work. We propose to replace the current practice by producing a historically and scientifically contextualized, analytically structured, audio/video enhanced, meaningful and lasting legacy. We believe that any working scientist, research unit, or institution that has been active for a quarter of a century, or more, should be seriously contemplating our ideas. Recent advances in the study of "history and memory" in science, coupled with digital technology, enable us to offer you a wide variety of commemorative options. (Appendix 1)

 

 

Return to Homepage