Introduction to Special Section in Art History: The Significance of Place: Emotional Geography, Collective Memory and Heritage

The five papers in this section come from an Honors College art history major’s thesis and the research papers of four students who enrolled in an upper-level art history seminar devoted to cultural heritage and memory. They share a devotion to reconstituting the significance of place, which Tim Cresswell defines as “spaces which people have made meaningful” (7) “across the globe at all scales” (14). The papers also share an emphasis on the modern period, roughly, from the sixteenth century to the present. Respectively, they hone in on the following locales:

  • Streets and taverns frequented by mollies, that is, homosexuals active during the eighteenth century in London;
  • Entartete Kunst, a major art exhibition that, on behalf of the Nazi Party, the Reichskulturkammer opened in Munich during 1937, then toured throughout Germany;
  • Israel’s West Bank “apartheid wall” as viewed from a Palestinian refugee camp;
  • Contemporary La Jolla, California conflated with ancient Pompeii right before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.; and
  • The streets of Lower Manhattan as lived through the body of an artist and her subjects.

The authors reconstitute the significance of their varied places of interest by using methodologies, perspectives and concepts from emotional geography, collective memory and heritage to analyze historical and contemporary works of art and visual and material culture. Briana Camp considers environments created by the meanings of words and their materialization in print culture circulating throughout London and consequently constructing an “emotion-spatial hermeneutic: emotions are understandable – ‘sensible’ – only in the context of particular places. Likewise, place must be felt to make sense. This leads to our feeling that meaningful senses of space emerge only via movements between people and places” (Davidson and Milligan 524). In regard to Munich, Palestine, La Jolla by way of Renaissance Italy and English Neoclassicism, and Lower Manhattan, Tory Warner, Breana Hyche, Catherine Parkinson and Jonathan Garcia respectively explore how “[g]roup memberships provide the materials for memory and prod the individual into recalling particular events and into forgetting others” (Olick 7) within contexts of “[t]he straightforward definition of heritage as the contemporary use of the past” (Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge 2). Their papers advance scholarship doubly. They put forth new interpretations of their topics that show a potential to forge novel scholarly pathways siting the practice of art history research in an interdisciplinary matrix.

Works Cited

  • Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publications, 2004. Print.
  • Davidson, Joyce and Christine Milligan, “Embodying Emotion Sensing Space: Introducing Emotional Geographies.” Social and Cultural Geography 5.4 (December 2004): 523-532. Print.
  • Graham, Brian, G. J. Ashworth, and J. E. Tunbridge, A Geography of Heritage: Power, Culture and Economy, London: Arnold Publishers and New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2000. Print.
  • Olick, Jeffrey K., “Collective Memory.” The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2d ed. Ed. William A. Darity, Jr. Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2008. 7-8. Web.