Guantánamo Public Memory Project Update

As of September 1, Elizabeth Silkes (Executive Director of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience) and Elazar Barkan (Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University) have announced that their respective organizations, will lead the Guantánamo Public Memory Project.  The Coalition first launched the Guantánamo Public Memory Project in 2009.  They knew that building a public memory of this site’s complex history would require a multi-dimensional approach with the collaboration and involvement of many different stakeholders including scholars and practitioners.

Since the project’s inception, the Coalition has:

  • mapped over 1,000 resources on the history of Guantánamo – from books to video footage to art to oral histories – and the archives, organizations and individuals around the world who own them
  • researched and identified 90 individual stories of diverse Guantánamo experiences and developed a sample of multi-media portraits showcasing some of these stories
  • working with Picture Projects and Tronvig Group, developed an initial web prototype for the project
  • created a blueprint for the project available as a publication

Last April, the Coalition and ISHR brought together over 100 historians, artists, archivists, activists, and others to discuss and debate the next phase of building a public memory around the US naval station at Guantánamo Bay.  In this convening it was decided that the Guantánamo Public Memory Project will be housed at ISHR and led by a committee of partners including the International Coalition, coordinated by the International Coalition’s Founding Director Liz Sevcenko.  This new structure will leverage the resources of Columbia University and ISHR’s new Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability to continue to move the project forward. In the coming year, project aims include the development of the following:

  • Guantánamo Public Memory Project beta web platform, shaped by the feedback many of you have provided on the web prototype, featuring a digital history exhibit; oral histories of refugees, detainees, military personnel, and others with diverse experiences of the base; forums for the latest news on Guantánamo, the latest work of partner organizations, and how people can participate
  • an extensive on-line research resource, integrating documentary, bibliographic, image, video, oral history, and other collections of partner organizations around the world
  • a National Exhibit and Dialogue connecting 8 universities across the country; students collaborate to produce an exhibit on Guantánamo’s history to open at New York University in December 2012 and travel to participating university galleries across the country, accompanied by public dialogues in each community
  • multi-media curricula for high school through university

Silkes and Barkan invite those whom have been integral throughout the development of this project to continue to share their time, resources and knowledge, and stay involved by emailing Liz Sevcenko and the project team at

Read publication


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  1. News: Guantánamo Public Memory Project Update « Archives Watch

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