The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

The Memory Museum: A Celebration of Our Histories

Surabhi Sanghi, Class of 2020

On 7th and 8th February, the History Society organized its annual flagship event — The Memory Museum. The concept came into being after conversations about what really constitutes history, and why it shouldn’t be restricted to what makes it to textbooks. The core belief of the Memory Museum is that having lead and lived a life, a person creates memories, and it is these memories that constitute history. The Museum focused on telling the stories that are often lost in the larger picture, our personal memories.

The display included various “memories” generously contributed by many members of the Ashokan community — students as well as professors. These ranged from Pratiti’s (Batch of 2020) collection of postcards, which she had collected on her trips to Europe as a child, to Professor Upinder Singh’s (History Department), childhood song which her younger sister would sing when the latter was five years old.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Professor Ananya Sharma (International Relation Department) connected the idea of memories to international conflicts and how nationalism shapes people’s memory of their collective past; Professor Sanjukta Datta (History Department) talked about how memory is becoming an important form of evidence in the field of historical studies. She talked about her experience and research on the varying notions of memory; Professor Alexander Phillips from the English department linked the idea of memory to his field of research and talked about his contribution — a medal given to him by the state of New York after he donated stem cells and how his stem cells did save a life. Divyansh Sachan(Batch of 2019) and Sachin Bhatia(Batch of 2020), contributors from the previous year also talked about their experiences with regard to their objects and the whole notion of Memory Museum.

In case you missed the event, here are some of the highlights shared by the curators:

The Stepping Stone: I, along with all other members of my cohort, was presented this stone as a welcome gift by my cohort leaders on the day I first stepped into Ashoka. On the same day, I gave it to a friend, and then for the longest time believed I had lost it. Looking at it now, it still takes me back to that first day at Ashoka, full of anxiety, and nervous excitement. I Contributor: Joydip Chatterjee (Class of 2020)

Possessing a Lost Possession: This is a piece of brick from our ancestral palace in our zamindari estate called Taljanga in Bangladesh. My family had to eventually abandon their home post-partition. In 2014, we managed to locate the estate, only to find the house, unoccupied but in a dilapidated state. While visiting the house was an extremely emotional moment, the only way we thought we could have a tangible memory of the house was by taking a brick from the arches of the balcony. I Contributor: Varun Mallik (Class of 2019)

A Book of Many Memories: This book was given to me as a prize in school for mathematics at the age of fifteen — and it clearly had no connection to either the age of the recipient or the subject for which it was given. Perhaps for these very reasons, it has stayed with me for over 40 years, through all the times I have moved houses, shifted cities, and rebuilt my library. I Contributor: Professor Arunava Sinha

The Less Expensive Souvenirs: I have travelled all around Europe and India as a kid, and would buy postcards wherever I went — which was the only thing I was allowed money for. This slowly built up into a collection over the years, with each postcard meaning something different to me. Contributor: Pratiti (Class of 2020)

Anonymous Samaritan: This medal was given by the State of New York in the United States after I donated stem cells to an anonymous blood cancer patient in 2010. I Contributor: Professor Alexander Philips

The author is a second-year History major and an active member of the History Society.

Image Credits: Surabhi Sanghi, Class of 2020

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