Back to resources

Collections of souvenirs

10. Mementos

Part of a short series on memory design

Denise Hampson
Monday 4th July 2022

One of my favourite books is called “What People Keep" by authors Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax. They toured the USA talking to famous people, and ordinary people, about the possessions that matter most to them. It turns out the things we hold most dear are not our most expensive items, but the artefacts and mementos that relate to somebody special to us or a key moment in our lives.

When we go on trips, we bring home souvenirs. niknaks, postcards, fridge magnets, paintings, those little flattened 1p coins that you’ve squeezed through a machine to reimprint them with an image of the place you visited.

Virgin Atlantic give their Premium and Upper Class passengers a set of adorable little salt and pepper shakers with the meal service, in the shape of two little aeroplanes. They fully expect passenger to steal them and take them home. Imprinted underneath them is pinched from Virgin Atlantic.

People enjoying profound experiences want to take home an artefact to remember it by. Those salt and pepper pots for example. A teaspoon from an afternoon dining experience, a shot glass from a fancy bar, the programme from a west end show. I’m NOT advocating theft by the way.

Artefacts are physical reminders of experiences and they’re great triggers for recalling memories.

A question for you… what mementos do you keep? What items do you hold most dear? What memories are they linked to? Where do you keep them? And what stories do you tell people about them?