“Cultural memory” meets cognitive science

A fascinating study on “cultural memory”– http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/28/science/study-details-presidents-paths-from-power-to-dusty-corner-of-cultural-memory.html

A remarkably useful study conducted — as good science should be– longitudinally on cultural memory, using presidential names and their “memorability” as a test.

(and who “remembers” — literally– Chester A. Arthur? Show of hands:  ) images

Collective cultural memory — for presidents, for example — works according to the same laws as the individual kind, at least when it comes to recalling historical names and remembering them in a given order, researchers reported on Thursday. The findings suggest that leaders who are well known today, like the elder President George Bush and President Bill Clinton, will be all but lost to public memory in just a few decades….. 

Scientists have a straightforward theory to explain this uneven, predictable memory curve. The brain evolved so that the skills and knowledge that are most useful now or in the future are those most accessible to memory. If a skill is not used or rehearsed, it fades. Culture mimics the pattern: The less a president is “used” — seen, heard about, written about, referred to — the less accessible to memory the name becomes.

The study authors predict that presidents like Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon and Carter will by 2040 be remembered by less than a quarter of the public. After that, it is a steep fall to Millard Fillmore land.

Day vs. Night… Ferguson


In this New York Times article in it discussed the involvement of protesters and the decision of not inditing Officer Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. While reading this article it raises the questions of the types of protests between the day and the night in the city of Ferguson. It can be directly related to the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King’s non-violence stances during the 1960s. What I found interesting and historical relevance is the change of ideals in the decades since. Now as Ferguson as an example shows that to get your voice heard and prove a point violent protests could be the new trend. The leaders in the protests at Ferguson say in the article, “Older leaders needed to give the young ones room to vent and be angry… It’s a matter of supporting what they’re doing, instead of trying to mold it.”


“Revising” history? A new historical marker for Sherman’s March

A new historical marker has gone up in Atlanta, and it is raising questions about historical “revisionism” and how events in the past– especially destructive and emotionally-fraught events, such as Sherman’s March to the Sea– how remembered and memorialized, how they are — literally– set in stone for the future.  ALTJPATLANTA1-articleLarge

“There’s still a strong resentment for what happened and how it happened and for Sherman himself,” Dr. James C. Cobb said. “They want to whitewash everything and make it so much nicer than it was. It wasn’t nice. War isn’t.

“You all the time run into college kids who don’t know which side Sherman was on — and their parents and certainly their grandparents would be aghast to know that. It’s not just a matter of education. It’s a matter of being the blank slate that younger generations present for revision or education that older generations don’t because they’re steeped in the mythology of their ancestors.”

The Justus Ramsey House: What not to do with historical buildings

Many residents of Saint Paul, Minnesota are familiar with the vibrant patio at Burger Moe’s, a sports-centric bar and restaurant located on West 7th Street. What they may not realize, however, is the small, unassuming, stone building dictated to be the “patio bar” or “clubhouse” is the oldest known house still standing in the city.

Justus Ramsey (older brother of popular Minnesotan figurehead, Alexander Ramsey) moved to Saint Paul in 1849 and purchased the two-room home for $60. Over time, the building has been used as a residence and a barber shop. Because of its age, the building has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That being said, the exterior of registered historical buildings are obligated to be maintained in keeping with the integrity of the original design. Occasionally, the interior is also protected from modernized renovations. However, at 252 West 7th Street, the Justus Ramsey Building has been completely transformed into a gaudy splotch on the historic registry list that just screams “cabana boogie-woogie funhouse.” The trim around the roof and windows, as well as the entire door has been painted a bold pink. The interior has been gutted, stone work has been added and manipulated to make shelving space, a bar has been built to extend the length of the building, and the trim and large support beams have been painted the same bold pink as the exterior. At the very least, antique photographs do line the walls; and in the back corner, if one squints hard enough, the “National Registry of Historic Places” declaration can almost still be read on the dust-riddled plaque.

Liken it to the effects of history being pushed aside for capitalizing on potential business space, the Justus Ramsey House is a sad reminder that the future of experiencing history in the present through landmarks is threatened by, among many other things, fruity umbrella drinks.


photograph of 252 W. 7th St. 55102. Date unknown.


the exterior of the building as it exists today.


the interior of the former two-room home.


Justus Ramsey, former owner of 252 W. 7th.

(Note: Tragically, Justus Ramsey took his own life in 1881. To learn more about him and the Justus Ramsey House, please visit http://www.mnhs.org)

“Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office”

An article in the New York Times a few weeks ago detailed the re-creation of a 1920s “eugenics office” from New York’s Cold Spring Laboratory

“An old stucco house stands atop a grassy hill overlooking the Long Island Sound. Less than a mile down the road, the renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory bustles with more than 600 researchers and technicians, regularly producing breakthroughs in genetics, cancer and neuroscience.

But that old house, now a private residence on the outskirts of town, once held a facility whose very name evokes dark memories: the Eugenics Record Office.

In its heyday, the office was the premier scientific enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor. There, bigoted scientists applied rudimentary genetics to singling out supposedly superior races and degrading minorities. By the mid-1920s, the office had become the center of the eugenics movement in America.

Today, all that remains of it are files and photographs — reams of discredited research that once shaped anti-immigration laws, spurred forced-sterilization campaigns and barred refugees from entering Ellis Island. Now, historians and artists at New York University are bringing the eugenics office back into the public eye.”

New World Trade Center


This article is about the opening of the first offices in the new World Trade Center. I find it interesting that the new World Trade Center is both a memorial to 9/11 and, as this article says, “a symbolic return to some sort of normalcy” for the site of the biggest tragedy on American soil.

cigarettes are soooo 1939


My best friend, Cassie, is a fitness professional. When she was at my house last week, we started talking about how and why people develop a cigarette addiction. As we took a detailed trip back in time, Cassie was aghast to learn that cigarette advertisements used to include doctors (who apparently LOVE “Viceroys!”), medical recommendations, and overt oppressive discourse. During the birth of Rosie the Riveter, the feminist flagship image, Lucky Strikes was also producing images like this gem. Beloved reader, your eyes do not deceive you, this message, clearly geared towards the insecurities of women reads, “Is this you five years from now? When tempted to over-indulge, reach for a Lucky instead.” Women, why would you eat and whale around in a swimsuit when you could be enjoying the effects of unfiltered, toasted tobacco? If you haven’t been convinced yet, the “toasted” apparently means that it ‘protects your throat against irritation and cough’. Get at em, you skinny minis.

What are some of your favorite, or rage-inducing vintage ads?