Unlike vernacular memory, official memory is monumental, linked to the sacred, specialist, elite, and a reflection of power. In this post, I consider Penn Treaty Park as an example of local, official memory.
Defining culture, then, is like dipping a bucket in a river and thinking “I’ve got it!” It is never “finalized,” and it is always subject to revision and change because, well, that’s what life and living are: change. It may seem futile, but this is exactly how the Kensington Remembers project got started. It begins as an attempt to understand a culture of memory particular to Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhoods, especially those often called the “river wards.” By finding, documenting, mapping, and studying these sites of memory, I hope to scoop a bucket out of the flow of culture in these neighborhoods and come up with some provisional understandings of that culture. As futile as that exercise may seem, I think it is worthwhile asking why this culture is where it is, when it is, in the way it is. It’s important not only because this project is about death and remembering in this place, but because it is about life and the living. And maybe we can learn something important about life and living, wherever and whenever we may be.