Kattago, Siobhan. (Ed.). The Ashgate research companion to memory studies. . Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2015. xvi, 274 p. ISBN 9781-4094-5392-5. £90.00.

I am looking for a good reason why this book should be reviewed in Information Research as it bears practically no relation to library and information science. Asking the publisher to send it I had an impression that at least a little part of the volume will be devoted to the memory institutions, such as museums, libraries, and archives. This is not the case, even though one can find museums and archives mentioned in the text and occasionally the word 'library' appears in it too. The volume deals with the interdisciplinary field of memory studies, which draws upon the studies in psychology, history, philosophy, political science, linguistics and other scholarly fields. However, I know several researchers among my colleagues who have produced studies that may fit into the memory studies (namely, Maria Dalbello and Zinaida Manzuch) and hope that more of those I do not know may be interested of this impressive volume.

Two of the authors authors represent the fields of Cultural History and Communication and Rhetorical studies, the disciplines that may be considered relevant to the audience of our journal. But even a better reason to review the book here is that there are several chapters on memory policies, which are implemented through a wide range of societal institutions, including media, archives, educational system, libraries, etc. Being in the business of preservation of cultural heritage and safeguarding the vast amount of documentation that becomes historical evidence and source of memory reconstruction we should be acquainted with the main issues that are explored in memory studies. One of them is extremely relevant and seems to be present in each chapter of the reviewed companion. This is the issue of collective memory, its relation to history, individual memory and historical consciousness, as well as politics of memory.

The Companion is created in an interesting and quite unusual way for this type of publication. It includes 18 individual chapters by individual scholars from Europe and the United states. They were asked to write a text on the major influences or, as the editor puts it, companions, in their own memory studies. Thus the volume consists of eighteen ego-histories that at the same time present quite effectively the ideas of the most influential memory researchers from various fields, including Plato, Halbwachs, J. and A. Assman, Nora, Derrida, Lotman, Freud, Wittgensten, and many others. I have derived real pleasure reading the chapters by Patrich Hutton, Peter Fritzsche, Mieke Bal, and Marek Tamm because of their personal and appealing styles. The chapters relating to the East Europe and Post-Soviet space were specifically interesting as they have thrown new light on my own memories.

However, beyond my personal interest in some of the chapters, I was keeping an eye on what may be useful for the scholars and researchers of library and information science, or cultural policy and preservation. Apart from general philosophical and sociological theories of memory that should be the basis of a serious professional working in any memory institution, I found that the chapter 11 by Stuart Burch might be useful. Though it relates to very personal memories of the author, the underlying idea of inherent selection, hierarchical arrangement and exclusion of heritage from the collective memory seems to be highly relevant for library work. In chapter 13, Julie Hansen presents the ideas by Derrida on archives and their content that is influenced by the space and form in which it is stored (p. 205). She also presents the textual model of memory, which presupposes continual re-reading and interpretation of the text rather than actually remembering the event. Both ideas suggest that in memory institutions, we should be conscious of the consequences that we might impose on collective memory by our professional practices. The concept of 'travelling memory' coined by Astrid Eril that we meet in the chapter 14 by Daniel Levy has been already applied in research of the practices of memory institutions by Perla Innocenti (2015). She called it 'migrating memory' there. There are other interesting ideas presented in different chapters that some of our audience may find useful, such as in chapter 6 (written by Alexandre Dessingué) on the concept of collective memory related to Halbwachs and Bakhtin, or in chapter 9 (by Marek Tamm) on the concept of cultural memory used by Juri Lotman.

In other words, without bearing direct relation to our field of study, this companion may be of interest to some scholars dealing with cultural heritage preservation, digital humanities, knowledge organization, and even information retrieval. Though any professional relevance would be on the conceptual level, some inquisitive professionals may also enjoy reading this volume as a challenging and interesting text.


Innocenti, P. (2015). Cultural networks in migrating heritage: intersencting theories and practices across Europe. Farnham, Ashgate.

Elena Maceviciute
Professor, University of Borås
August, 2015