Memory Tools

"After World War II, Milman Parry and Albert Lord studied poetic bards in Yugoslavia and discovered that they could recite up to 500,000 lines of material." (Thomas F. X. Noble)

Matteo Ricci's Memory Palace
Jesuit Missionary to China

"In 1596, Ricci wrote A Treatise on Mnemonics, in Chinese, for the governor of Jiangxi Province. In it he recreated the medieval European idea of a memory palace -- an edifice you build in your mind and furnish with mnemonic devices. Recollection is a process of walking through the rooms and associating information with their contents. Those contents must be distinct and dramatic.

"Suppose a modern medical student were to build a memory palace. In one room he might put a Mountie on his horse, leading a manacled prisoner. That triggers the phrase, Some Criminals Have Underestimated Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The first letters of each word, S, C, H, U, R, C, M, and P, identify the shoulder and arm bones -- S for scapula, C for clavicle, Humerus, Ulna, Radius, and so on. He can fill his whole building with bizarre people and things to aid his memory of bones, muscles, and nerves.

"The memory palace idea was important before we had millions of the new printed books -- when most knowledge had to be carried by rote. But printed books were driving out the art of memory and they were bringing in the Reformation. Now we could write it down, forget it, and look it up when we needed it."

GCS World History Memory Palace

On August 26, 2005, we began to construct our own Memory Palace.  So far we only have two rooms, a bathroom -- we've got to have indoor plumbing like the people of Ur did 4,000 years ago -- and a gallery to display our treasures of art, especially those of antiquity.

In our gallery, we have an eight-foot tall statue, dead center, with four recessed spot lights shining on it.  It is made out of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay.

A short distance away, in the right corner, is another work of art, donated by Stewart Screpetis, the Black Obelisk.

Next to the Black Obelisk, on the left, is the place for the next object.  Someone's choice will be selected on Monday.