The project “Memoria Romana: Memory in Roman Civilization” was initiated in 2009 with the award of a Max-Planck Prize for International Cooperation, in the amount of EUR 750,000, to Professor Karl Galinsky, Cailloux Centennial Professor of Classics and Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. In the humanities, this award is made every four years and the subject is specified; in this case it was Gedächtnisgeschichte. The project is based at the Ruhr–Universität Bochum, which made the successful application.
Historical scholarship centers on determining what actually happened and why (cf. von Ranke's famous dictum), so zu schreiben wie es war. Studies of historical, social, and cultural memory are complementary: they concentrate on what people, and especially groups of people, remember, how these memories evolve, and how they shape identities. Ancient Rome was a memory culture par excellence. Memory pervades all aspects of Roman culture: literature (incl. historiography), art, architecture, religion, and social and political history. Memory, therefore, is a concrete entity in Roman civilization and modern memory approaches do not need to be imposed artificially or extraneously on this organic presence.
The major undertaking, with a large allocation of funds, in the first two years of the project was to support the work especially of younger scholars in this area on an international basis (the modalities for the applications can be accessed here, for informational purposes). We received many more applications than we could fund and the funds were expended as of late 2011. We were supporting 14 doctoral fellowships (several for two years) and 17 other research projects by postdocs. The objective has been to employ and test some perspectives, methods, and impulses from current work on Gedächtnisgeschichte (a.k.a. the memory boom) over a broad spectrum of Roman phenomena.
In the final two years (2012-2014), the emphasis shifted more toward publication. This includes collected papers from some of the highly successful conferences sponsored by Memoria Romana and monographs resulting from the work of its grantees and others. The formal end of the project was February 2014, but there is ongoing activity by individual members of the original project.