“Designing Memory” at Manhattanville




Manhattanville comes with a rich history. Whether it is the College or the current campus, aspects of that are visible.

But does the whole community recognize these pieces and know what they mean? Manhattanville’s identity is constantly adapting to the time, but everyone that passes through the Castle has had different experiences. With this knowledge, the College wants to reflect on its history in a way that examines the aspects of the College that create the space and memories in an event, “Designing Memory.”

The “Designing Memory” event will be occurring throughout the afternoon and evening of April 17, 2018. The goal of this event is for it to be a multimedia and immersive event with different activities and programs. Each is designed to help understand the interaction between space, environment, architecture, and monuments and how all those things work together to construct memory and identity.

The project’s details are tentative but are getting sorted out as the semester continues. Organized by a group of faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the program wants to be inclusive and representative of the Manhattanville experience for all. Some of the sections will include a more specific take on the theme of memory, looking through departmental lenses. Clista Towne from the Dance and Theatre Department and her students will be creating site-specific performances within the Castle through the examination of the physical object and its life.


Additionally, Professor Lisa Rafanelli will be creating a project that examines the religious sculptures that came from the Convent Avenue campus and their place in Manhattanville history. They stayed on the quad until 2005 when they were moved to the cemetery in the back of campus.

Professor Meghan Cifarelli, Chairperson of the Art History Department and lead faculty member/ academic curator for the project explained Professor Rafanelli’s project.

“She is approaching that from a perspective of what we call in art history, ‘object biographies.’ This idea that objects have lives and their meaning is contextual and when you change the context, you change the meaning and you also change the space,” said Cifarelli.

Manhattanville has a series of locations and objects on campus that are tied to its identity. In today’s political climate, a conversation about monuments and their place in history is ongoing. There is a discussion about what they mean to a community, what happens when they leave, and how they define the space in which they are located.

It is valuable for anyone on campus, students especially to help understand the space as a defining part of their college experience according to organizers. Because of this, there is hopes to involve students in interactive exhibits and CAM projects that will be seen throughout campus in the lead-up to Quad Jam.

“It is really important for students to have a sense of their place. What is this place? And [Manhattanville] has changed over times, both in terms of the college and this physical space that we occupy,” said Cifarelli.

The “Designing Memory” event will be taking inspiration from previous events at Manhattanville, like Castle Conversations, and is using the most successful parts as a way to engage the community. The variety of programs will be a draw as well as the addition of outside speakers, like Coline Jenkins, great-great granddaughter of suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton and President of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust. Her focus on women’s history and questions about where statues of women might be in locales coincide with Manhattanville’s history as an all-women’s school until it became coeducational in 1971.

“It is an opportunity to take all the threads from the different things and intentionally pull them together in a way that is coherent,” said Cifarelli. There is hope for it to become an interactive event and an exhibition that engages the community in a continuous dialogue in the Castle. Loren McDermott special assistant to the President and staff lead on that the committee wants the event to grow from this.

“The hope is for this to happen at least once a year,” said McDermott. While the event is still in the works, there is value in creating this discussion with the community. As the semester continues the emphasis on remembering our history and creating new memories for students, faculty, staff, and alumni is necessary to the identity of Manhattanville.