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The Significance of the Centenary

Grant Holder: Dr Joanne Sayner, Department of Modern Languages, University of Birmingham

Co-applicant: Dr Jenny Kidd

Funder: AHRC

Period: February 2013 to October 2013

This project examines what makes a centenary commemoration different to any other. The timeliness and significance of this question is evidenced by the current and forthcoming centenaries which are the focus of the research. From the recent commemoration of suffrage, revolution and the sinking of the Titanic, to the world-wide events of the First World War, this project places contemporary centenary events in the context of historical celebrations and commemorations in order to interrogate exactly who is now remembering for whom, and how.

At the heart of the investigation are two axiomatic paradoxes: first, the significance attributed to the acts of memory and commemoration is often accompanied by references to obsolescence and calls to forget – temporal significance on the one hand is perceived as the contemporary insignificance on the other; second, the processes of remembering are by default devoid of witnesses but nevertheless continue to have immediate resonance within families and communities. As those tasked with caring for the future, museums and heritage sites are at the centre of negotiating these controversial, and very public, paradoxes. This timely, interdisciplinary, cross-sector project works to contextualise, compare and convey the significance of the centenary and to support museums and heritage sites to embed robust ways of negotiating these notable dates.

Research Outputs

Journal article
Conference paper
Four workshops
History Pin
Funding application

Research Impact

The focus of this project is, by its very nature, wide in its temporal scope: it casts its gaze on events from long ago but at the same time there are immediate and continuing opportunities to see the impact of the project on current centenial activity and on work for the immediate and more distant future. The project thus seeks to inform the work of:

1. Museum and Heritage Site Professionals 
2. Policy Makers 
3. Educational programmers
4. Academic researchers/students

Related Links:

Project Website

Project Partners:

Historic Royal Palaces

The Univesity of Sheffield

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales