The Story of the Stuff: Issues in Temporary Memorial Preservation Main MenuWhat Are Temporary Memorials?A DefinitionThe Problem of Temporary MemorialsEssential Questions to BeginCase StudiesCase Studies IntroductionTexas A&M & the Bonfire Memorabilia CollectionCase StudyVirginia Tech & the April 16th Condolence ArchiveCase StudySandy Hook Elementary & the Story of the StuffCase StudyFurther StudyQuestions & Recommended ReadingsAshley Maynor5adce0171052a8cc24f02b7c0a0c96951154dfb5Self-Reliant Film
Interview with Erika Doss
12015-09-16T17:17:22-07:00Ashley Maynor5adce0171052a8cc24f02b7c0a0c96951154dfb560701An interview with Erika Doss, Notre Dame professor of American Studies and author of Memorial Mania. Supplement to the web documentary The Story of the Stuff.plain2015-09-16T17:17:22-07:00Vimeo2015-06-12T13:40:58video130568033Ashley Maynorinterviewdocumentarytemporary memorialpublic tragedyAshley Maynor5adce0171052a8cc24f02b7c0a0c96951154dfb5
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12015-09-16T17:17:22-07:00What Are Temporary Memorials?1A Definitionmedia1599412015-09-16T17:17:22-07:00In the Western world, spontaneous shrines are a “primary way to mourn those who have died a sudden or shocking death, and to acknowledge the circumstances of the deaths” (Santino, 2006, p. 5). As Professor Erika Doss explains, in the wake of sudden tragedies, people often leave objects at the site of the event. These collections of objects, referred to as "temporary memorials" or "spontaneous shrines," have become a form of public grieving.
Coined by folklorist Jack Santino (1992) in an article about death ritual in Northern Ireland, the term “spontaneous shrines” refers to such phenomena as the Mourning Wall at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing, the panoply of messages on plywood barriers and missing persons posters at “Ground Zero” in New York City following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and even the temporary roadside memorials and urban corner shrines of teddy bears, votive candles, and cards following automobile accidents or drive-by shootings.
This practice was first heavily theorized in Santino’s seminal book, Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death (2006) and “spontaneous shrine” has hence become both a widely used and contested term. Newer theorists, such as Doss (2008, 2010) and Sturken (2007), opt instead for the phrase “temporary memorial,” due to both the often secular dimensions of this kind of commemoration and to emphasize the ephemeral but not necessarily spontaneous nature of the practice. Other common terms include “performative memorials,” “makeshift memorials,” “ephemeral memorials,” and “spontaneous memorials.”
While memorial practice itself is millennia old, the contemporary practice of creating large-scale temporary memorials in the Western world exploded in the 1990s, growing and evolving alongside the 24-hour news cycle and birth of the Internet, and is largely characterized by leaving teddy bears, cards, candles, and other items at sites of violent death (Milne, 2009).