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"Germany - Memories of a Nation" visit

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Memory Lane to Bornholmer Straße 

A white porcelain rhinoceros with two horns. A blue diving suit. A green Volkswagen Beetle. What do these items have in common? To find out we took our Final Year Students to see “Germany – Memories of a Nation” at the British Museum.  The exhibition that ran from September 2014 to January 2015 brought together 600 objects, each of which is somehow related to or symbolic of German history and thereby tells its own story of Germany and its people. Twenty-five years after the downfall of the Berlin Wall the acclaimed show invited visitors to reconsider common notions of what Germany is supposed to be.  It started with footage from Bornholmer Straße in Berlin where GDR citizens first crossed into the West in November 1989 and then took us further back in time with Dürer’s engraving Melancholia, late medieval coins, some of them square, and “Notgeld” from the Weimar Republic, to name but a few samples. By looking at how collective memories are attached to cultural artefacts and, thus, how objects shape our sense of history, it corresponded to a Final Year core module in the UCL German Department on “Erinnerung und Identität” (memory and identity).  The field trip to the British Museum (within walking distance from UCL) proved to be an exciting opportunity to swap the class room for a show room. It also challenged our imagination, for in avoiding both the stereotypical images (Oktoberfest etc.) and some of the more notorious symbols the exhibition inspired us to establish our own connections between familiar and unfamiliar German objects. After all, what do a pair of Adidas soccer shoes, a copy of Der Spiegel, and a Doner Kebab have in common? None of these objects were on display in the British Museum. However, our students say that they may very well have been, as parts of their own memories of Germany.

Professor John Dickie explains what the criminal underworld is really like

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John Dickie

As a former Sicilian Mafia boss living in west London waits to hear if he’ll be extradited to Italy, Professor John Dickie (UCL Italian) explains what the criminal underworld is really like...

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