Collecting memory could be considered a sort of treasure hunt: talking with people, spotting some hints and following and deepening the talks till the memory is revealed. An enriching scavenger hunt that you can start only if properly equipped.
You are not a friend of theirs. You are not a relative.
You are a person knocking on the door of life of strangers looking for something very intimate and deep, and asking a sole single question. A very simple yetcomplex question: can you share your memories with me?
At the Greek Bank of Memories we have been doing this on a voluntary basis for some years. We try to find an entry point in people’s experiences and stories to populate our database of collected memories. We could list several important reasons and factors that motivated our will to engage with such a delicate process: giving to old and socially outcast people a central role, making their life experiences not only visible but also a shared capital to strengthen our societies’ cultural identity.
All the above reveals the importance of oral history as a tool for filing social and cultural gaps in our communities.
But if we go a bit further into the individual experience that a memory holder and a memory collector face, there are three keywords that would dominate the discussion: respect, trust, and gratitude.
Respect: if from one side the memory holders show a certain respect for the work we do, accepting to share their memories with us, from the other side we really need to consider this moment as a sort of unique present for us. We are invited to travel together among feelings, impressions, emotions and to capitalize on this fragile material, showing endless respect for any of those feelings, impressions and emotions. A respect that suspends any possible judgment and leaves the space only for active and empathetic listening.
Trust: we are not asking to share anecdotes or jokes. Collecting memories about the several dimensions of hope when facing a difficult situation, means clarity of intention, transparent and direct involvement and a huge amount of trust. We need our memory holders to trust the goals and objectives of our project, to trust us and the use we will make of their memories and to trust us individually as the ones that can make them feel comfortable when sitting in such a peculiar bilateral talk.
Gratitude for the process, for the availability of time, for the empathy for recognizing the value of life and for strengthening human connections through a deep and intimate learning process.
These three values are at the core of our work, at the core of a process that helps us to capitalize on each single collected memory and enrich ourselves and our online shared database. A repository of life that can benefit our society highlighting the richness of an inclusive society.
This article was written by the Greek Bank of Memories
Photo 1: Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash
Photo 2: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash