07 October 2011

Souvenir salvage and the death of great naval ships


Nicky Gregson
Geography, University of Sheffield
Souvenir Salvage and the Death of Great Naval Ships
Date: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Place: Lecture Hall, 38 West 86th Street

Nicky Gregson spoke in the Modern Design History Seminar Wednesday, December 8, 2010, on “Souvenir Salvage and the Death of Great Naval Ships.”

Nicky Gregson is the Director of an Economic and Social Research Council funded project, The Waste of the World, a five-year research program bringing together researchers in geography, anthropology and materials science from the University of Sheffield, Durham University, University College London, Goldsmiths College London, and researchers in South Asia, to study the global impact and approach to waste


Gregson’s talk is entitled “Souvenir salvage and the death of great naval ships.” This talk examines the social and physical death of naval ships as a form of military material culture. It draws on ethnographic research with veterans’ associations in the UK and US, and in a UK ship breaking yard, to explore the relationship of a naval ship’s social and physical death to memorialisation, souvenir manufacture and souvenir salvage. For ex-navy personnel, it is normative to memorialize a naval ship through a range of manufactured souvenirs worn in everyday life. The social death of naval ships has, until recently, been largely disconnected from the sites of their physical death, or destruction, but the advent of ethical disposal policies in the UK has brought about the geographical compression of the two. The talk charts three phases of ex-naval personnel’s engagement with the destruction of “their ships”: pilgrimage, souvenir salvage and collective memorialization. Gregson argues that proximate visualized destruction makes ex-naval personnel witnesses to an object’s death and that resource recovery regimes should not only be considered recycling of materials but also their reincarnation.

military; culture; material; wars; naval history; ships; ethnography; merchant navy

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