Dedicated to Kenneth Hudson and Georges Henri Rivière
... Mnemosophy? Just upgrading the proposal of Heritology
as the Science of Public Memory - by Tomislav Šola
The simplest way to make the world a better place is to provide children with safe and comfortable childhood. Mine was short and troubled. In practice, it translates into all sorts of vain projections, illusions and rationalisations. When I was two years old (1950), my father was sentenced to 16 years of rigorous imprisonment for the political crime “against state and people”. My mother was trying her best, so my life in the centre of Zagreb city changed for a distant village in the mountains where my mother’s parents lived: well off peasants in meagre times and country. In the next five years I was raised amidst the life of 19th century and it still makes part of my rather peculiar life experience. My early living ambience was simple and ascetic but within an intact natural environment and vital, vibrant ancient living traditions. There was a sublime but powerful poetry to it. Early childhood without parents decided upon much of what I have done and on how I judge the world. I understand what craving for love means. I understand children. After I returned to the hometown I had a good schooling but scarcity was my living environment. I dreaded poverty ever since. So, understand poor and deprived. By the end of secondary school and throughout the studies, during vacations, I was European hitchhiker and occasional worker, mostly in England. As s student I often worked on many jobs (film and tourist industry, restauration) and also independently, making jewellery or producing T-shirts. I designed concepts and products, did the work, created marketing... I understand “real sector” and appreciate “real” work. I used money for travelling.
Following the wit and curiosity, my studies were varied and international. I completed them in Paris, lucky to have Georges Henri Riviere as my mentor. After successful start of professional career in an international tourism company I opted for the less prestigious career of a museum curator. After seven years I was a director of a museum referral centre, the only of the kind in Yugoslavia, at the time. Travels continued and multiplied as well as professional assignments. So it happened that several hundred travels, mostly to London and Paris, quite a few to Helsinki and Barcelona, and to many other places, make part of my personal maturation. Almost a decade spent partly in between Slovenia make me able to acquire better overview of both national and international circumstances. Wars are, besides being tragic, also the most efficient way to learn about the nature of humans and their societies. From museum practice my career turned into 27 years of professorship with regular consultancy jobs. As such, I was a rare case at the Faculty. Most of the “scientists” there never experienced the life “out there”. So, I believe I understand why and how societies remember, what role they assign to museums and heritage and what my students need the most. I was lucky to have Kenneth Hudson as my other mentor. ICOM and Kenneth’s EMYA were organisations I devotedly served for 17 years.
My career was in big part international: small countries like mine “encourage” their ambitious people to seek affirmation abroad. On the other hand, the big, well branded countries suffer superiority complex and accept such foreigner reluctantly. I did the possible. Throughout my career, I was bursting with new ideas, offering them on all sides. Being mostly refused, I was doomed to realize some myself: The best in Heritage, Bridges of Europe, Global Love Museum…Heritology (1982), Mnemosophy (1987)…. Tuned to understanding the world around and guided by humanist ethics I believe that my ideas possess innovation, coherence and social responsibility of scientific relevance, though I decline to identify with most who claim the status of scientists. The attribute should, anyhow, be assigned only to a very few individuals worth the title.
During the war and after, the ultra-conservative and dissident history of my family, the nightmare of my childhood, was all of a sudden worth a fortune. I refused to cash in on what I have left behind. Past cannot be a goal, but only a means. Transition pushed me into commitments and prestigious interest groups, only to make me refrain and withdraw into deeper discretion. In this euphoria around me, I turned into a conscious dullard.
My distaste for institutions, politicians and the new rich grew daily. Writing books was like complaining to an imaginary friend or talking to my mentors.
I tried life abroad too and due to the family priorities missed, alas, a career in the best museum of Denmark. I cherished social-democrat values which proved inapt and compromised in the neoliberal context. If oriented towards public values and welfare society one is necessarily more than that. So, practicing social humanism privately, helps. Vast lecturing abroad made a point too. With a family to support and a decade of childhood bestowed to the fatherland I was tired, but I have taken occasional risk in politics. Very unsuccessfully. In most of the transitional countries, the false elites disguise their rule into democratic forms only to continue and legalize their loot. They treat citizens either as undesirable witnesses or a resource of their power. At that stage, some like me, turn into a dull, rather distrait codgers. An acceptable patriotism consists of being a good professional, responsible citizen and caring family person. The latter is the only compensation to my wife and daughters for the too many absences. Whether we are doing good or bad, we are never alone doing it.
Once aged, and with corresponding experience, a steady job and regular commitments become neither a need nor an advantage. To step down in time and discretely, is a matter of decency. I withdrew at earliest term. It rendered possible the luxury that belongs to the seniors, - to follow one’s own craze. So, this site is a hole to the world from a voluntary seclusion. Drilling it, is the evidence of my restless inconsistency.