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US Historian Commemorates Memory, Images of WWI

US Historian Commemorates Memory, Images of WWI

What people see matters more than what they read, according to renowned United States World War One historian, Professor Jay Winter, in regard to war images and accounts.

The Yale University, Charles J. Stille Professor of History, is giving three public lectures this week – two in Palmerston North and one at Te Papa in Wellington – as part of the Centenary History of New Zealand and First World War project Massey University is part of.

In his first lecture, The Geometry of Memory, Professor Winter addresses the spatial logic of war memorials and the geometry applied to places of remembrance. He gives this lecture at Palmerston North Central Library at 5.30pm on Thursday, 23 November.

In the second lecture, The Centenary Commemoration, Professor Winter explores the impact of World War One on the 20th century, and the commemoration of the war. The lecture is on Friday at 1pm, also in the Palmerston North Central Library.

In his third lecture, Photographing the Great War, at Te Papa on Saturday, 25 November, he explores the impact of the “Kodak revolution” of World War One and the extensive trail of unofficial footage that ensued. Throughout the war, soldiers photographed their experiences, capturing moments of boredom, combat, or reflection. This left an important collection of photographs that are now resurfacing from family photo albums to the public domain.

Massey war historian and prolific author Professor Glyn Harper says Professor Winter is “without doubt the foremost world expert on war, memory and commemoration and we are really fortunate to have him here in New Zealand at this time.”


Professor Winter received his PhD and DLitt degrees from the University of Cambridge and is a specialist on World War One and its impact on the 20th century.

He is the author or co-author of 25 books, including Socialism and the Challenge of War; Ideas and Politics in Britain, 1912-18; Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History; The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century; Rene Cassin and the rights of man, and most recently, War beyond words: Languages of remembrance from the Great War to the present.

He was also co-producer, co-writer, and chief historian for the PBS/BBC series The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, which won an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award and a Producers Guild of America Award for best television documentary in 1997. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Graz, the University of Leuven, and the University of Paris.

Public lectures by Professor Jay Winter:

The Geometry of Memory:

Palmerston North Central Library – 5.30pm: Thursday, 23 November

The Centenary Commemoration:

Palmerston North Central Library – 1pm: Thursday, 24 November

Photographing the Great War

Te Papa Museum, Wellington – 7-8.30pm, Saturday November 25, Soundings Theatre


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