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Public Memory of Myanmar

About this collection

The history of Burma/Myanmar, as in many places around the world, has been predominantly written by and defined through the lenses of state and its official accounts. The official history, written by state-appointed historical commissions, textbook committees, and narrated through school curriculum, centralized classroom pedagogies, official museums, and official archives, thus, has very little to do with the day-to-day public life of the people in Burma/Myanmar. Carefully selected events, cultural symbols, ethnic identity, and popular heroes are promoted as the mainstays of history of Burma/Myanmar, while less palatable facets, from the state’s point of view, are ignored and left out of the historical record. In fact, over the past five decades, the Burmese/Myanmar state in several circumstances treated the diversity of the public’s memory and opinions of various ethnic groups in particular and ordinary Burmese people in general as a potential threat to the state-defined history and political order.

Religion Household Food Public Agriculture Cooking Market Forest-Landscape Mandala collection map

As Burma/Myanmar transitions from an era of military dictatorship to one of democracy with the 2008 constitution, the public’s historical memory continues to be sidelined by both the mainstream and opposition leadership in the interest of pragmatic reforms and concessions from the military establishment. Given the wide power still wielded by the military and its establishments who initiated and led political reforms, little effort has been made to discuss and document the conduct of the military during the years between the 1962 when the military government officially emerged and 2010 when the democratic transition officially took place in Burma/Myanmar. The elected political leaders of past elections have been unwilling to challenge the official history of Burma/Myanmar for fear of losing the reforms that they have so long sought. Figures like Nobel laureate and the current Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi consider the political landscape too ‘delicate’ to upset and thus remain largely silent about the years of repression, torture, disappearances, land and property confiscation, and the corruption of the military leaders since 1960s. Only a thorough public history, documented, researched, and publically available, can become part of the Public Memory of the Burmese society and its people.  Such kind of public memory would enhance fundamental understanding of the diverse people and cultures of Burma/Myanmar.


This archive on Public Memory of Myanmar collects and maintains the memories of people of Myanmar. The project started in December 2013.  Since then, each summer, Carleton students work with Professor Myint in the field and collect images, videos, and documents to be deposited in this archive.  This projected is directed by Professor Tun Myint of the Department of Political Science at Carleton College. This online archive is managed by Danya Leebaw and Hsianghui Liu Spencer of the Gould Library at Carleton College.


The materials in this archive are for teaching and research purposes for public education. If you want to use them for strict commercial or indirectly related to commercial purposes, please contact project managers and director.


Preferred citation to include:


Creator. Title of Image. Date. Public Memory of Myanmar, Carleton College Digital Collections, Carleton College Gould Library, Northfield, MN, URL. Date accessed.



Six, Sam. Elephant Costume at an Alu Ceremony. 2016. Public Memory of Myanmar, Carleton College Digital Collections, Carleton College Gould Library, Northfield, MN. Accessed December 20, 2016.



If you have questions about this collection, please contact Tun Myint, Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton College. Technical questions can be direct to Staff contributors to the development of this collection have included Hsianghui Liu-Spencer and Sarah Calhoun of Gould Library at Carleton College. 


The materials in this collection are available for use. 

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