Thursday, 4 February 2010

Peru: Museum of Memory Update

The 'Museo de la Memoria' will now, apparently, be named 'Lugar de la Memoria' (place or site of memory).
"The word museum is associated with an institution that preserves the past and we want the "Site of Memory" to be a reconstruction of the violence in Peru, giving a more worthy, fairer, more accurate view of the historical facts", said Vargas Llosa in a press conference.
(trans mine from El Museo de la Memoria en Peru cambia de nombre por Lugar de la Memoria)
The term is, of course, familiar to those interested in memory studies, coined as it was by French historian Pierre Nora. Nora's lieux de memoire are not necessarily actual places, but can be objects or ideas. According to Nora, however, these sites of commemoration are only needed because 'true' memory has been lost.
Modern memory is, above all, archival. It relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy of the recording, the visibility of the image. What began as writing ends as high fidelity and tape recording. The less memory is experienced from the inside the more it exists only through its exterior scaffolding and outward signs-hence the obsession with the archive that marks our age, attempting at once the complete conservation of the present as well as the total preservation of the past.
(Nora, 'Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire', 1989, p. 13)
One can somehow sympathise with this view when thinking about the setting up of memorial exhibitions. But I can only assume that Vargas Llosa and his fellow commissioners do not regard the act of collecting and displaying material about the past with quite the same suspicion that Nora does, or they would hardly be bothering in the first place. It remains to be seen, however, how the new museum will engage with the thorny business of memory and official history in a post-conflict society.

Vargas Llosa is making a start by meeting with the commanding general of the Peruvian army, Otto Guibovich, today. Guibovich, naturally, wants to promote military interests in the potential contents of the museum. The meeting is strictly behind closed doors, and it remains to be seen what will come of such discussions.

Vargas Llosa se reune este jueves con general Guibovich
(La Republica)

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