Film Shows Rememberance Through Common Objects

A film presented at the University on Oct. 27 displayed how simple objects event become personal tokens for remembrance, as St. John’s continued it semester-long memorial of September 11.

The presentation of the film, Objects and Memory, has been described by the History Department as “a campaign for public history.” Director Jonathan Fein led the presentation one of several he has been doing around the country.

The film’s website describes it as “how we respond to history while it is happening and how we tell our stories through the otherwise ordinary things in our homes and museums that are associated with people, places, and events.”

Fein’s motive behind making the film was to show how common objects from the September 11 attacks ten years ago are links to personal memories of the tragic event.

“When we believe an object is connected to something important, it does something for us,” Fein said.  Fein noted that many objects from the attacks were taken by the New York Historical Society for this very purpose.

“Things are important to us because of what they represent,” Fein said. “Things that might not be important to you might be important to someone else. If your house were on fire and someone were to ask ‘why did you save that?’ and you respond ‘oh it was my grandmothers.’ It is because of the association that these objects have, it’s what makes us who we are.”

Fein related this project to how museums and historical societies referred to past events for guidance on how to present all the objects they had collected in the wake of the attack. He said he drew upon the examples set by a museum  for the Oklahoma City Bombing, as well as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.These exhibits, objects taken from the site, such as a piece of rock from the building that was bombed, or a war medal left for a soldier whose name was marked on the wall, were stored and put on display. By allowing a more personal connection with these displays, a deeper connection is established with those learning of these events, Fein said.

“I think the point is to learn,” Fein said. “In regards to 9/11 it is important to learn of past experiences and how it relates to our lives today.”

“It’s a benefit to not lock in time the events of 9/11, but to look at who we are today and how we live our lives today” Fein said in regards to the semester-long memorial being held at St.Johns.

After the presentation Michael Wolfe, associate dean of St. Johns College, and a history professor, spoke on the student interaction with this memorial. Wolfe helped to organize the event, and explained that by offering a more compelling account of the September 11 attacks, it will hopefully challenge students and the public to view the attacks from a more scholarly view.

“It provides students with a visual and physical presentation of how memories and stories of 9/11 are told and how we are trying to understand them,” Wolfe said.