Language has unmistakably made plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past,
but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the
medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must
conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to
the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the
”matter itself” is no more than the strata which yield their long-sought secrets only to the most
meticulous investigation. That is to say, they yield those images that, severed from all earlier
associations, reside as treasures in the sober rooms of our later insights––like torsos in a
collector’s gallery. It is undoubtedly useful to plan excavations methodically

Walter Benjamin: Excavation and Memory


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