Long corridors as memory palaces

Corridors are perfect to use as memory palaces – once they are decorated in a structured way. So why do we waste the corridors in schools and universities when they could become such valuable spaces? Usually, if there are any decorations, they are just nice pictures or random posters.

I was pointed to the Long Corridor at the Summer Palace in Beijing by a reader of The Memory Code. It is a superb use of a corridor as a memory palace.

Click on the image below to go to the Wikipedia entry about it.


I finally found a book showing the images and simply adore it. This covered walkway is found in the Summer Palace in Beijing. It dates from the middle of the 18th century. At 728 metres long, it is decorated with more than 14,000 gorgeous paintings. These tell stories – the entire structure acting as a sensational memory palace.


Why not use school and university spaces as memory palaces?

Instead of numbering rooms as dull old 1, 2, 3 … why not 5000 BC, 4000 BC, 3000 BC … and use the spaces between for images suiting that time period. Students will recall where they saw Stonehenge, for example, and associate it with the area around 5000 BC. Or number the rooms for the last few hundred years and illustrate more recent events chronologically?

How about naming the rooms by letter a, b, c … and add images for the words in a foreign language? Or new words in English?

Why not have the students do the images in art? All indigenous cultures integrate art as a key component of the knowledge system. Our even include small videos recording songs composed by students to store knowledge? The ever changing display will attract attention.

It is well known in educational circles that taking information in one form, say writing, and adapting it to another form, say images or music, makes it more memorable. You need to concentrate and know the information well to creatively adapt it. The only limits are imagination – and schools all have art and music teachers and a mob of creative types who can help set the imaginations of students on a wild spree.

A memory palace must be structured – not just an array of paintings or a set of songs. Without structure it is just another gallery display.

And while we are at it – why not use the school grounds as memory palaces as well – just like the Australian Aboriginal songlines and Native American pilgrimage trails? And none of this needs funding! We can do all of this within the art and music curricula as well as meeting the requirements for every subject in the school. We just need to stop separating knowledge into neat little packages – we need to integrate it.

But what I really want is my very own Long Corridor just like the one in the Summer Palace. Please!

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About lynne

I am an Honorary Researcher at LaTrobe University. I am the author of 17 books, the most recent being 'Spiders: learning to love them' (Allen & Unwin), 'Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies' (Cambridge University Press, and 'The Memory Code' (Allen & Unwin, AUS; Pegasus Books, US and Atlantic Books, UK). My new book 'Memory Craft' is about how to apply the indigenous memory methods - and many more - in contemporary life. It will be published on June 3, 2019.
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6 Responses to Long corridors as memory palaces

  1. Peter E Jones says:

    As a retired museum educator the service began to work with dementia carers and staff using objects to stimulate memories. This developed into discussions about memory corridors in residential care establishments.

  2. Michela says:

    Dear Lynne,
    You might enjoy reading about Luzern’s unique bridges and their paintings depicting the city’s history. Here is the entry in Wikipedia:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapellbr%C3%BCcke?wprov=sfti1
    https://maps.apple.com/?ll=47.051667,8.307500&q=Kapellbr%C3%BCcke&_ext=EiQpvPhwA52GR0AxPQrXo3CdIEA5vPhwA52GR0BBPQrXo3CdIEA%3D

    I fully agree with your wish to integrate disciplines and help students learn by transforming university halls. If only!!

    • lynne says:

      I knew nothing of the Luzern bridge. How extraordinary. It shows how well this concept can be implemented. We have thousands of spaces that would suit – and they are already sitting ready. Thank you so much for the pointer!

      Lynne

  3. ANITA C BARELA says:

    I adore this idea. A muralist can take the ideas and decorate a class room. It reminds me of the different depictions of the passion of Christ you’d see in a church. A class room can have its own version depicting the subject a teacher is focusing on. I sent the article to my art teacher sister. They are always looking for curriculum ideas.

    • lynne says:

      Thank you for your comment, Anita. The concept has been around in various forms for a long time. That makes sense because it is so in tune with the way the brain works. Churches have been used as memory palaces for millennia. So why not schools and universities? Thank you for sharing the article.

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