“Snow Scenes”: Exploring the Role of Memory and Place in Commemorating Extreme Winters

Alexander Hall Newman University, Birmingham, United Kingdom

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Georgina Endfield University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom

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Abstract

Scholars are increasingly focusing on the cultural dimensions of climate, addressing how individuals construct their understanding of climate through local weather. Research often focuses on the importance of widespread conceptualizations of mundane everyday weather, although attention has also been paid to extreme weather events and their potential effect on popular understandings of local climate.

This paper introduces the “Snow Scenes” project, which aimed to engage rural communities in Cumbria, England, with their memories of extreme and severe past winter conditions in the region. Collating memories across a wide demographic, using a variety of methods, individual memories were analyzed alongside meteorological and historical records.

By exploring these memories and their associated artifacts, this paper aims to better understand the role of memory and place in commemorating extreme winters. First, it is demonstrated how national narratives of exceptional winters are used by individuals as benchmarks against which to gauge conditions. Second, this paper identifies how specific locations and landmarks help to place memories and are shown to be important anchors for individuals’ understanding of their climate. Third, the paper considers how memories of severe winters are often nostalgic in their outlook, with a strong association between snowy winters, childhood, and childhood places. Fourth, it is illustrated how such events are regularly connected to important personal or familial milestones. Finally, the paper reflects on how these local-level experiences of historical extreme events may be central to the shaping of popular understandings of climate and also, by extension, climate change.

Corresponding author address: Dr Alexander Hall, Newman University, Genners Lane, Birmingham B32 3NT, United Kingdom. E-mail: alexander.hall@newman.ac.uk, georgina.endfield@nottingham.ac.uk

Abstract

Scholars are increasingly focusing on the cultural dimensions of climate, addressing how individuals construct their understanding of climate through local weather. Research often focuses on the importance of widespread conceptualizations of mundane everyday weather, although attention has also been paid to extreme weather events and their potential effect on popular understandings of local climate.

This paper introduces the “Snow Scenes” project, which aimed to engage rural communities in Cumbria, England, with their memories of extreme and severe past winter conditions in the region. Collating memories across a wide demographic, using a variety of methods, individual memories were analyzed alongside meteorological and historical records.

By exploring these memories and their associated artifacts, this paper aims to better understand the role of memory and place in commemorating extreme winters. First, it is demonstrated how national narratives of exceptional winters are used by individuals as benchmarks against which to gauge conditions. Second, this paper identifies how specific locations and landmarks help to place memories and are shown to be important anchors for individuals’ understanding of their climate. Third, the paper considers how memories of severe winters are often nostalgic in their outlook, with a strong association between snowy winters, childhood, and childhood places. Fourth, it is illustrated how such events are regularly connected to important personal or familial milestones. Finally, the paper reflects on how these local-level experiences of historical extreme events may be central to the shaping of popular understandings of climate and also, by extension, climate change.

Corresponding author address: Dr Alexander Hall, Newman University, Genners Lane, Birmingham B32 3NT, United Kingdom. E-mail: alexander.hall@newman.ac.uk, georgina.endfield@nottingham.ac.uk
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