Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

December 03, 1998

Relationship between memorials and social change examined

Can memorials such as parks and quilts help lead to social change? That is what researchers at the University of Guelph hope to learn through a collaborative community project.
The University's Cultural Memory Group at the Centre for Cultural Studies is teaming up with the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis to study whether memorials can be used as an effective tool to increase awareness. They will focus on Guelph's Marianne's Park, located on Gordon Street along the Speed River. The park is named in memory of Marianne Goulden, a WIC staff member who was killed by her common-law husband in 1992.

The group will examine theories of memorializing and use their varied disciplinary backgrounds to analyze and document cultural memory and related issues.The goal is to better understand the social role of cultural memorializing. They also plan to develop an archive for academic and community purposes, and use the park as a tool for feminist community work.

"If you think about it, most public memorials are war memorials," said Belinda Leach, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and member of the Cultural Memory Group. "But there are now different kinds of sites of cultural memory, like the AIDS quilt or the Holocaust museums. We're interested in that kind of memorializing, what it means for specific groups to engage in this kind of memory making, and the relationship between memory and social change."
Although various details have yet to be worked out -- such as how to develop a research process that is both academic and community-based -- the group is determined to bridge the gap.

"We are trying to get rid of the distinction between community and academics," said Christine Bold, Cultural Memory Group director and professor in the School of Literatures and Performance Studies in English. "We want to make academic work useful for the community and to take community thinking and experience seriously as academic work."

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is supporting this study through a Strategic Partnership Development Grant.

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