Professor Paul Gough
the creation of a ‘sacred national shrine’: the
National Memorial Arboretum as a landscape of civilian, military
and corporate memory:
paper abstract MIRIAD MMU November 2004
This paper will examine ‘strategic’
memory, focusing on the role of multi-national corporations in projecting
and protecting their organizational memory through a programme of
memorial building and the acquisition of cultural capital. The paper
will take as its case study the creation of the National memorial
Arboretum, intended to be a place of national commemoration in the
heart of England.
The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, UK was established
in 1994 but its origins can be traced to calls to create a ‘sacred
national shrine’ after the Second World War. Through an examination
of the systems of memory creation, the paper will explore the way
that gardens and planting schemes act mnemonically to become theatres
of memory, especially where fragmented memories are brought into
wholeness through a process of ‘re-membering’.
Now officially considered to be ‘full’, the National
memory Arboretum favours the indexical over the iconic, and the
commemorative form is intended to be inclusive, democratic and all-embracing.
As will be argued in the paper, this has resulted in a complex design
where esoteric selections of shrubs and trees have been brought
together in quixotic and often obscure juxtapositions that are designed
to relate to regimental or organizational tradition and histories.
In order to make sense of this complex symbolism, the author proposes
a basic typology of mnenomic form, offering several broad categories
where colour, shape, design and numbers have been used to signify
The paper concludes by appraising the effectiveness of the arboretum
as a repository of national memory, and its adoption by a number
of corporate bodies to house their archive of war memorials but
also to extend their role as benefactors and strategic ‘rememberers’.