Global Cultural Memory and the New Millennium

The concept of the Global Cultural Memory (GCM) project grew from shared conversations that began on a bleak winter day in 1997 between Beth Sandore and Bruce Schatz . Soon thereafter Joseph Busch of the Getty Information Institute joined these conversations. Schatz committed these conversations to a white paper, and proposed that an overarching structural framework be used, which was developed by Fernand Braudel in his work The Structures of Everyday Life. Schatz pointed out that although our environment changes, the human condition remains much the same; therefore, comparing and contrasting the world as it has been over time and space could lend some understanding on the very personal level of what to expect in the new millennium.


The discussions began to take the form of building a repository of recent cultural memory (i.e., the past fifty years). A powerful searching system would enable people in all walks of life to answer questions that were specific to their lives with information that is common to all of our lives:


The goal of GCM is to enable people to bring together the threads of cultural heritage information about common topics regardless of format or physical location. These various types of information can, for the first time, be brought together by powerful searching means over the Net. GCM in its fullest extent would include contributions from museums, libraries, schools, historical societies, community groups, and archives to distributed repositories of recent cultural memory materials, including text, images, sound and other media.

Several key objectives for the GCM project began to emerge from further discussions:

The Proof of Concept:
Champaign County Cultural Memory

Before GCM could move beyond the planning stages, we felt it was necessary to test its conceptual basis and its structure, and to establish relationships with collaborators from various types of institutions. The Champaign County Cultural Memory database (CCM) serves as the proof of concept for the GCM project. While building the CCM database, we were able to combine approaches to representing material and abstract notions of culture, contextual information, and objective documentation. These approaches are often used in isolation by archives, libraries, historical societies, and museums. Photographs of artifacts, and various social and family situations were incorporated into the database. The user is able to browse images about particular themes, or within a particular decade, or perform a search for a specific theme in a specific decade.

Future Development

As the GCM project grows, several areas have been identified for future exploration: