Review Blog

Jun 12 2019

Memory craft by Lynne Kelly

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760633059.
(Age: Adult) The Melbourne author used knowledge gained from her PhD research on memory to detail elaborate methods/structures for memorising large quantities of data eg whole dictionaries!
The book also contends that these methods eg memory palaces were used throughout history. Before the written word, most cultures used visual mapping, stories, dance, songs, etc to 'store' and pass on culture. In medieval times, visual alphabets and illustrated bestiaries were used as memory aides.
The author argues that while repetition (so knowledge is stored in long term memory) is an important element of memory recall, it is not enough. Attaching the knowledge/data to 'memory spaces' is also necessary. This is evident in the world of memory competitions detailed in another chapter where competitors use the techniques detailed in the book.
The section detailing how the author learnt French and Chinese would be very useful for language teachers. Chapter 12 deals with utilising memory techniques in education with a great example on the periodic table.
As a research project topic, it would be interesting to trial one of the methods used.
On a simplistic level, I successfully used elements to remember various names and terms I have had difficulty with.
In our digital age, it could be argued that memorising and recall of knowledge is unnecessary, but Ms Kelly argues that the brain strengthens connections while memorising - it is a muscle that needs exercise like all other muscles. In relation to education, the author views memorisation as a way to enhance what we already do in education'.
While extremely interesting, I found that a high level of concentration was required for some sections of the beautifully illustrated book. I was not tempted to try to memorise eg all of Australian or world history using one of the memory palace techniques - it seemed too complicated.
This book is more suitable for teachers and general interest rather than for students.
Ann Griffin

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