The Missing + The Present = The Story

In 2002 I had the priviledge of participating in a Jessie Ball duPont Summer Seminar for Liberal Arts College Faculty at the National Humanities Center.  The seminar I engaged in was entitled, “You Must Remember This: The Creation and Uses of Cultural Memory.” One of the pivotal moments of that three-week experience was when the artist Fred Wilson spoke with us about his work in creating museum exhibits where juxtapositions of objects, or lack thereof,… Read More

Navigating “Normal”

Striving for Normalcy On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was scheduled to teach my seminar on Reminiscence at 2:30PM. In the wake of the 9-11 attacks, I emailed my students to tell them that I would be in the classroom at the appointed hour and would be ready to hold class or to just talk, but that they were not required to attend. All of the students showed up, saying that they… Read More

Peter, Paul, and Robben

In February of 2005 I visited Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. The island holds the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison. Two days ago I visited the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia. The island holds a prison that has held Lenin’s older brother, Gorky, Trotsky (the latter two were both held in cell 60 according to Shaw’s memory), and many others…. Read More

Heroic Defenders of Leningrad Memorial

On our way back to St. Petersburg from Catherine’s Palace, we took the opportunity to stop at the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad Memorial. Given the time of day we arrived, the closing time of the underground museum, and the time remaining on our tour bus, we had to sprint through a space that invited reflection. The memorial is located where citizens of Leningrad dug a trench as the last line of defense… Read More

Location, Location, Location

Two days ago the heavy rain and winds led to a change in plans for our bus tour. After several planned stops for photo ops that we declined, the guide seemed increasingly nervous. I imagined her thinking, “what am going to do with these people?” When Amanda realized that the guide did not understand we are professors rather than a typical tour group, she clarified. The guide responded by offering a visit… Read More

Don’t Judge a Church by Its Cover

This morning Alison, Sharon, Shelley, and I visited The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood. The church is built on the site where Alexander II was assassinated, and yesterday’s guide told us it is the only Russian-style building in St. Petersburg. If you clicked on the link, you can see how elaborate the building is. (I can add pictures when back home, but my iPhone 4 can’t access the internet… Read More

Van Gogh Alive

Shortly before leaving for Russia I viewed the Van Gogh Alive exhibit at Discovery Place in Charlotte. Visiting art in a science museum brought new ways to view paintings I have long admired. For example, the enormous screens showing the art often focused on small features of a larger work, one at a time. Music from Van Gogh’s time played as the images changed, and other screens showed quotes from Van Gogh’s… Read More

A Dash of Russia

Years ago our dear friends Kelly and Masoud hosted one of their wonderful dinner parties. My husband, Mark, complimented the taste of lemon in a particular dish. In her characteristic good-natured verbal sparring, Kelly told Mark that he was hallucinating the lemon taste and headed back to the kitchen for more delicious food. Moments later she returned to say something like, “oh my gosh, I put a dash of lemon pepper in… Read More

“So that’s a story, but who knows”

Our Kremlin guide told us more fascinating tales than I can hope to remember. The conclusion of many of these was “so that’s a story, but who knows”. This phrase was offered so cheerfully, suggesting that even if evidence emerged to counter the story, the story was so deeply rooted in cultural identity that modifying it would be difficult if not impossible. That phenomenon also happens at a personal level. Whether conscious… Read More

It’s All Connected

Whenever a Pilates exercise gives me relief in a part of my body I didn’t realize that I was stretching, my instructor tells me, “it’s all connected.” As we continue our travels that phrase keeps coming to mind. For example, early on in our tour of the Museum of Contemporary Russia (known by several names including the Revolution Museum) we ran into a bust of Pavlov. As you may know, Pavlov identified… Read More