Isa Deguzman ’25 (She/ Her), Staff Writer
Bailey Maierson ’25 (She/ Her), Staff Writer
When combining aspects of psychology, sociology, and history to answer questions about remembrance, the result is the student-designed major, memory studies.
This major is facilitated through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (CIS), which allows students to self-design majors that fall outside of the traditional departments of study.
Last May, Taylor Drake ‘21 graduated as the first Davidson student with a degree in memory studies.
According to Drake, memory studies is “a multidisciplinary field that is used to understand how the past is represented in the present. It’s a tool for individuals and communities to create identities and make meaning out of current events.”
Drake, who focused on a more historical lens, took a very different approach to his studies than senior Luísa Pereira ‘22, whose emphasis is on psychology.
Both students took courses like Collective Memory, where memory was discussed from a psychological perspective, and Who Owns the Past?, a political science class focusing on the implication of archives and how people decide what to remember from the past.
Throughout these courses, Drake and Pereira emphasize the integral role of the Davidson Archives in their CIS major and memory studies research.
Representatives from the Archives, Special Collections, and Community described archives as helping “to establish the parameters of a common past. They are vital institutions for social memory and many archival activities are essentially forms of preserving memory.”
As a whole, archives help to create the psychological idea of collective memory—documenting, creating, and collecting historical records. The archivists emphasized that the ethics and power dynamics of archival work be considered when completing research.
For students like Drake and Pereira, the process of creating a CIS major requires them to complete a capstone project, thesis paper, or comprehensive test.
Drake opted for the thesis option, and decided to research the memories of parents who lived during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and are now raising LGBTQIA+ children. He was especially interested in how the parents’ memories influenced their responses when their children came out to them.
This topic was inspired by Drake’s own coming out experience, during which his mother, who recalls living through the HIV/ AIDS epidemic, revealed her concern that he would contract HIV.
Through his research, Drake spoke to 20 parents of transgender children whose experiences revealed profound “community and advocacy for transgender youth and students.”
Such interviews helped Drake to draw connections between these parents’ memories of LGBTQIA+ activism in the 1980s and how those experiences influence their activism on behalf of their children today.
Reflecting on his experience at Davidson, Drake emphasized his appreciation for the way “students are encouraged to blend personal understandings of their identity with coursework.” This is evident in the various approaches to memory studies within Davidson’s student and faculty research.
Dr. Kristi Multhaup, who teaches the Collective Memory course, explained: “One thing I value about the memory studies major is that it can include such a wide range of levels of analysis—from neurons to individual people to families to nations.”
For instance, Pereira focuses on the memory of an amnesiac in psychology and neuroscience textbooks. She works “with various theoretical and methodological frameworks that help to understand questions surrounding memory.”
Drake further emphasized the support he felt from faculty and staff, particularly through the archives. The archival team has worked with students on memory studies projects and in their respective courses.
Archives staff attended the inaugural Memory Studies Collective trip to Alabama in February 2019, participated in group discussions, provided guided readings, and attended programs.
“We have also advised students regarding their thesis projects, particularly those involving the collection and use of oral histories related to local and college history,” representatives from the department said.
The fact that archival work involves collaboration across several departments, organizations, and with students and faculty is one of the more meaningful parts of the link between the Davidson archives and memory studies.
“Original research takes time,” the members of the archives and special collectives team said, “but is rewarding, as students create knowledge and add to the scholarly conversation at Davidson.
Thanks to the groundwork laid by Drake, Pereira, Dr. Multhaup, and others, future Davidson students have the opportunity to continue and expand upon memory studies research. Students can learn more about the major by attending the Memory Studies Coffee Hour (BYOC), which will resume next semester and is held on Thursdays from