Blasting of the Wakeman's horn, Ripon in Yorkshire.
(Click on image to see full photo and explanation)

Special Welcome to visitors from Roots and Routes website. You are now in Australia! Although only a young country, we have many commemorative anniversaries in Australia. Some scholars say that a fondness for commemorations is a particular feature of "settler societies", such as Australia, Canada - and the USA. You are welcome to visit our study site. However, some sections are restricted to enroled students. Click here to go to our home page; when there click on the link "Schedule" (box, left side) to go to our study note index.

Message for HST209 Public History students: Visit the Roots and Routes website for an interesting approach to the coming bicentennials of American communities. In the early 1800s, American settlers began to move westward. The result is many American towns and villages are now reaching the 200th year of their establishment. "Roots and Routes" is helping to promote these celebrations, as well as provide advice and guidance on ways in which to make a celebration. This page is linked to their website.

Topic 11: Commemorations

Why do we have commemorations?


A wish to mark publicly events of the past. But, why?

How and why do we "remember" some moments of the past but seemingly choose to forget others?

The answers to these questions very likely lie with human nature. As part of creating and securing our own identity as an individual and as a community, we seek to remind ourselves of past achievements, of challenges met and conquered, of past sacrifices and present obligations. We remember - and celebrate - what is good, positive about ourselves. Commemoration is the public "voice" of communal or shared memory.

We also appear to use the rituals of anniversaries to strengthen bonds within our community, not only between people but also between state and nation. Consider Anzac Day from this perspective. Is it perhaps the day the State (Government) acknowledges its obligation to the Nation (the people)? **

It also seems that the passage of time, and the marking of that passage, gives our present - the here and now - a greater substance. It is perhaps not coincidental that settler societies are especially enthusiastic promoters of 'tennials.

John Hutchinson suggests we want these "state festivals" to strengthen our sense of oneness. He thinks though that they create social anxieties and divisions in the short term but also inspire fresh initiatives of reconciliation in the long term. We will explore this interesting idea in our tutorial.

** (For our American visitors: Anzac Day is the anniversary of the landing of Australian troops on Gallipoli, Turkey on April 25, 1915. It is commemorated as Australia's "Baptism of Fire" as a nation. April 25th is the equivalent of America's July 4th as a national day of patriotism and nationalism but without the fireworks. Australia Day, January 26th, marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. Not quite like your Mayflower - the First Fleet were mainly convicts. Australia Day is Australia's Official Birthday but the day does not have the popular support given Anzac Day. But there are fireworks!)


John Hutchinson, "State Festivals" in T. Bennett, Celebrating the Nation, pp. 3-25. (This reading is contained in the Readings book sent with your study materials.)

down Tutorial

down Public History definition

Access the forum through the Communicate link, see panel on left

down Tutorial

See tutorial exercise above.

Access the forum through the Communicate link, see panel on left

down Media watch

Tell us about a centennial project or activity for your community as reported in the local media.

Access the forum through the Communicate link, see panel on left

CLICK HERE FOR ROBIN'S BOOKMARKS - This page provides links to websites of special interest to Public Historians. Get in the habit of checking it for new listings. You can provide URLs for this page as well.

Last Revision: 2 October 2002