Propagating Historical Memory: Anne Frank’s Tree

In my “History and the Public” class we are always talking and thinking about ways to commemorate and mark and interpret places that aren’t there anymore, or how to link sites with a variety of interpretive strategies.  The challenge: to think outside of the box about how we can mark and share history on any given landscape. Murals, playgrounds, parks, and other kinds of public art and installations are all opportunities to share history in ways that are more accesible and potentially meaningful than another museum exhibit.

Here’s an approach I hadn’t thought of and one  I think is very cool: take saplings from the chestnut tree outside Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam and transplant them to other sites also associated with freedom of conscience and social justice. I love that one is Boston Common, associated with another kind of tree, the “Liberty Trees” created by early American revolutionaries. It would have been really cool if the sites chosen were all part of the “Sites of Conscience” network created by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum some years ago — it’s a truly global network– but then the Anne Frank House isn’t even a member of that.  But they took applications from sites instead and all the sites seem to be in the US.  But nevertheless it’s an interesting idea.

“For Anne Frank’s Tree, 11 New Places to Bloom,” New York Times, October 16, 2009