The City of the Fugitives: Does Selective Preservation of Disaster Memories Mean Selective Recovery From Disaster?
We’ll never know why the thirteen people whose corpses were discovered in Pompeii’s Garden of the Fugitives hadn’t fled the city with the majority of the population when Vesuvius turned deadly in AD79. But surely, thanks to 21st century technology, we know just about everything there is to know about the experiences of the people who went through the Canterbury Earthquakes. Or has the ubiquity of digital technology, combined with seemingly massive online information flows and archives, created a false sense that Canterbury’s earthquake stories, images and media are being secured for posterity? In this paper Paul Millar makes reference to issues experienced while creating the CEISMIC Canterbury Earthquakes Digital Archive (www.ceismic.org.nz) to argue that rather than having preserved all the information needed to fully inform recovery, the record of the Canterbury earthquakes’ impacts, and the subsequent response, is incomplete and unrepresentative. While CEISMIC has collected and curated over a quarter of a million earthquake-related items, Millar is deeply concerned about the material being lost. Like Pompeii, this disaster has its nameless, faceless, silenced victims; people whose stories must be heard, and whose issues must be addressed, if recovery is to be meaningful.