Collecting Mnemonic Images at the De Young Museum
Yesterday, I went to the de Young Museum in San Francisco to collect mnemonic images for my memory system.
I’ve struggled for many months to fill out all the images needed for my main memory system. I’ve been through many books and Wikipedia, but still have about 1000 images to go. In the meantime I’m using a simpler 2-digit/single-card system.
Since museums are storehouses of the most interesting objects and art in a society, I figured that the museum would have many ideas for mnemonic images. I also found some objects at the museum to help make existing images more vivid.
Improving Current Images
For example, I use the image “tusk” for the number 190. I’ve been visualizing just a plain elephant tusk. At the museum I found a few walrus tusk cribbage boards with elaborate carvings. I think that one of these objects will make a much more dynamic image than a plain tusk, because “playing cribbage” and “carving a tusk” are good actions:
(Sorry about the image quality. The lighting was low and the museum doesn’t allow flash photography.)
The image for “goggles” (4♥ Q♠) is now wooden snow goggles:
Instead of a simple glass canning jar (4♠ 4♥), my image for jar is going to be replaced by one of these:
My image for “axe” (#70) is now a specific axe:
What action can a basket (630) do? Here is one idea:
Finding New Images
I gravitated towards things that captured my attention visually. Here is a kind of shapeshifting bear with a mask that I think will make a memorable, interactive image.
Here is a striking image of a feline creature that walks upright, wears feathers, and shoots flames out of its hands:
I’m guessing that, by this point, some people are going to recommend that I use images that are familiar to me–but I’ve already used those up. 🙂
I don’t watch TV or movies and don’t have a huge mental library of celebrities to choose from. Also, I don’t have any interest in learning about celebrities. It would take me just as much effort to learn celebrities as to do what I’m doing now, and I wouldn’t enjoy it.
Here are a few more:
It isn’t the object that will be placed in the memory journeys; it will be the object that the art represents. Placed in a memory journey, this will be an actual dog, with a large collar and a spiked-jar incense burner on its back:
These figurines would become people wearing shell costumes:
I also took ideas for images from the paintings in the special collection.
From this painting, I’m going to use the snake charmer, a roseate spoonbill (though I’m not sure the bird in the painting is a spoonbill), and possibly the plant with gold-edged leaves:
This image is a bit darker, but it’s memorable:
A gaunt fisherman in a boat. For the image, his wife and baby will be in the boat too:
Eugène Boch, as painted by Van Gogh, has a memorable face:
As I was looking at the Van Gogh paintings, I started wondering if a series of paintings could be used as a memory journey. For example, to memorize facts about Van Gogh’s life, mnemonic images could be placed among an ordered series of his paintings of landscapes, rooms, and cafes.
Van Gogh also painted many other striking portraits that could be used as characters for images.
I took hundreds of photos at the museum, and this blog post is just a small sampling of what I’m working on.