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The Memory Studies Lab is hosting a symposium on April 2, featuring a keynote lecture from Edward Ayers, professor and president emeritus at the University of Richmond. (Getty Images)

First public event from VCU’s Memory Studies Lab features prominent history scholar Edward Ayers

The April 2 symposium highlights the wide-ranging aspects and ramifications of how we interpret the past.

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From ancient history to modern health, the broad field of memory studies encompasses how we make sense of the past and the present. At Virginia Commonwealth University, a unique lab’s debut public event will share insight into the evolving field.

The Memory Studies Lab includes VCU scholars from an array of disciplines, including political science, history, education, comparative literature, archaeology, American studies and urban planning. The lab, which is at the Humanities Research Center, is expanding its public engagement with an April 2 symposium for anyone interested in memory-related scholarship.

“Memory studies is concerned with the ways people process change and continuity over time, and that is something that goes beyond what is done in the humanities and social science disciplines,” said Gabriel Reich, Ph.D., co-director of the lab and a professor in VCU’s School of Education.

The April 2 memory symposium at VCU will feature a keynote address from Edward Ayers, Ph.D., professor and president emeritus at the University of Richmond. Over his career, the renowned American history scholar has initiated several memory projects dedicated to making the past relevant to contemporary society and politics. At the symposium, Ayers will draw from his new book, “American Visions: The United States, 1800-1860,” which follows marginalized voices as they moved into the center of national historical consciousness in the pre-Civil War period.

“This is a way to introduce the Memory Studies Lab and the work we do to the VCU community,” Reich said of the event. “We have created a rich intellectual community.”

In the broad field of memory studies, scholars examine how people form and remember ideas about the past, which in turn informs how they understand the present. In the humanities – particularly the study of culture, history and literature – memory has been used to make sense of cultural and political differences and the ways in which historical traumas are processed across generations.

The field also impacts health sciences, as doctors and public health workers have become more aware that different communities have different perceptions of medical practices – informed by their different memories of treatment, care or the lack thereof.

The April 2 symposium will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Richmond Salons III and IV of the University Student Commons. In addition to the keynote address from Ayers, he will participate in a Q&A. There also will be panel and roundtable discussions. Event registration is on this page.