What will you remember?
On 18 May was the International day of Museums, and I hope you managed to celebrate this day in which there is free admission to museums worldwide. Wouldn’t it be delightful if all things cultural were free – or even getting a stipend to relish in cultural activities (such as Brazil).
I have a fondness for museums and am a frequent visitor to such vessels of learning. The only drawback is the (understandable) inability to snack while perusing the features. Oddly, I start craving typical cinema snacks such as popcorn and Skittles while spending hours within a museum; and therefore, taking a break in the museum café just does not satisfy me.
In Salamanca (Spain), is one of my favorite museums, El Archivo General de la Guerra Civil Española, which is basically a museum about the Spanish Civil War. Now I am no history buff, but I strangely have a certain interest in the Spanish Civil War and wrote about this in a previous blog post. I also have a penchant for propaganda posters and this small museum was full of them! Unfortunately, photography is prohibited, so I was only able to take three measly pictures of my visit.
…until I was caught by one of the guards. I just flashed an apologetic, dumbfounded look and pretended I did not understand Spanish so that the guard would stop watching over me. The last picture I was able to take was this:
After scrutinizing over documents explaining the ideological foundation of the Masonry, the Moral Code, and the General Statues, the museum visitor is lead to this room depicting one of the meetings of the Masonry. The Spanish Fascist dictator, Franco, tried to close all the Masonic lodges for reasons such as: “their existence caused the downfall of Spain”. The Masons were active in propaganda and politics. For example, in 1889 the Logia Revolution was organized for the Philippines, underlined by the ideal of a free Philippines under a democratic regime. On display are also bands, aprons, collars, jewelry, and swords used in rituals and ceremonies. I am disappointed that I was unable to get a photo of a “notebook” that contained hand-written names and professions of certain people opposed to the Franco regime.
I received a different type of history lesson after finishing a book by Julian Barnes, “The Sense of an Ending”. It is a historical narrative of Tony, a middle-aged man, who recounts his memories to the reader with a forewarning that what he remembers is obscure at times. Being unsure of our history — our memories — is commonplace. I felt that this was the “take home lesson” of the book that can be summed up some of its quotes:
The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.
But equally, historians need to treat a participant’s own explanation of events with a certain skepticism. It is often the statement made with an eye to the future that is the most suspect.
History isn’t the lies of the victors. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.
I just feel safer with the history that’s been more or less agreed upon. Or perhaps it’s that same paradox again: the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it’s the most deliquescent. We live in time, it bounds us and defines us, and time is supposed to measure history, isn’t it? But if we can’t understand time, can’t grasp its mysteries of pace and progress, what chance do we have with history–even our own small, personal, largely undocumented piece of it?
What you fail to do is look ahead, and then imagine yourself looking back from that future point. Learning the new emotions that time brings. Discovering, for example, that as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been…History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfection of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.
Truthfully, I finished this book weeks ago because I read it over the course of two days ( I have just been too busy to blog). It is a short book that can cause a reader to think a lot – especially about the ending…which caused me to think about it so much that I even reached a brink of unsatisfaction.
Current read: “The Changeling” by Kenzaburo Oe