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Memory Jar

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This trope is when an object becomes imbued with the memories of a character, allowing others to gain these memories in a Pensieve Flashback or Exposition Beam. The "Jar" may be single use or reusable, and while it is often made intentionally either as an awesome form of journaling or diary keeping, it's entirely possible for it to be made unintentionally. In those cases, it's probably a psychic or wizard using a form of touch-based Psychometry to find out the history of an item.

In some cases, the memory jar can potentially be a complete record of a character's memories, becoming both a biography and potentially a "restore point" if their memories are damaged or a clone has to imprinted.

Compare Transferable Memory and Neuro-Vault.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the episode "Glass Labyrinth" of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Motoko seemingly gets hacked and finds her way to a curio shop where the store owner holds onto items full of memories from the customers who left them in her care. The psychic imprints that each object gives off allows her to tell the full story behind it. Motoko is soon reminded about the story of her and Kuze's past, and the tragic plane crash that brought them together when they were both just six years old.

    Comic Books 
  • A particularly horrible example in Hellblazer: John encounters a sweet, grandmotherly old woman who sends her son to kill prostitutes and hack off chunks of their flesh with a razor which she then keeps floating in jars. She can then relive the victim's happiest memories, which John compares to a drug high.
  • In The Sandman (1989), Odin keeps his thoughts and his memories in his two crows, Hugin and Munin. When he sends them off to gather information, he becomes completely catatonic, being capable of neither until they return.
  • X-Men:
    • The Shi'ar gave Jean Grey's family a crystal ball full of their and other people's memories of Jean Grey after she saved the universe, but before the Dark Phoenix Saga.
    • When he recruits his Evil Twin for help in undoing M-Day, Beast is given an injection by Dark Beast of his memories in genetic research. Because Dark Beast is a sadistic Mad Scientist, Beast reacts to the only barely edited influx of information as Mind Rape.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: During the Silver Age the Amazons use a memory machine to create copies of important memories. Diana uses her own stored memories to restore her mind after it comes to light that her mother altered her memories so that Diana wouldn't remember the grief of Steve Trevor's (second) death or realize he had been replaced with a Steve pulled from the multi-verse whose own mind the Queen had overwritten with memories that wouldn't contradict Diana's. Learning what her mother had done made Diana cut her ties with her.

    Films — Animation 
  • Rise of the Guardians has baby teeth work this way, storing childhood memories that the tooth fairy returns to children when they might forget their youthful dreams or self.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dr. Schriber of Dark City implants Fake Memories into people's heads with syringes, and he's later seen concocting the fluids that make up these memories.
  • The Final Cut centers around a special implant babies can get that will record their entire lives so that loved ones can see them after the individual's death. The main character's job is to cut and edit these memories into a film so that only the best memories are seen.
  • In The Neverending Story II, Bastian is slowly losing his memories which Xayide is keeping in glass orbs.

  • The Memory Bulbs from Jeff VanderMeer's Finch allow the Graycaps to access the memories of recently deceased individuals. You simply sprinkle some spores on the corpse, wait for awhile for the fungoid bulb grow from their head and then eat it. The experience is extremely confusing, at least for humans, trying to perceive range of events in a non-linear fashion, like picking them up randomly from the air. Since the memories always belong to a dead person, experiencing the memory of their deaths can be traumatic, as well. But worst of all, sometimes the process simply goes wrong when a human ingests the bulb; one detective's body breaks down into a mass of spores after going through the process one too many times.
  • In The Gate Of Ivory, Ivorans have learned to imbue their memories into "bluestone", and their libraries are generally filled with objects with memories of their ancestors. It is possible to imbue messages for specific recipients as well, and at one point, it's implied that someone is able to grant their skills posthumously during a crisis. A more temporary version is the onyx cat gifted to Theodora by Grandmother, which absorbs feelings and thoughts from a person who touches it with bare flesh and imparts those thoughts on the next person to touch it, something she uses to deadly effect later in the book.
  • Pensieves in Harry Potter are used this way and for the selfsame Pensieve Flashback.
  • The Rambosian aliens of Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series are filled with a fluid that keeps their memories. They keep jars of this fluid, and regularly back them up with newer memories. If they suffer some fatal misfortune, they can be patched up, refilled and returned to life.
  • Belamy in Skate the Thief has stored some of his memories into polished round rubies, and can share the memories with others by pressing the stone on their heads.
  • Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs series introduces the "stack", a cigarette-filter-sized implant at the base of the brain. It contains a complete record of the user's personality and memories, which can be backed up, sent elsewhere, or installed in a new body (aka "sleeve"). If your body dies but the stack is not destroyed, you can be revived. As an added bonus, a human brain is the only thing that can readily make use of the information in a stack, so even if others get access to your backups, they can't view/edit your mind in cut-and-paste fashion. Your memories can only be recovered by creating another "you" in the process. The novels come complete with a very large and well-thought-out list of the technology's consequences.
  • A Strugatsky Brothers short story involves the attempt to store the mind of a dying great scientist. The story goes into detail about the limitations of this new technology. The entire town is blacked out and perpetual storm clouds block out the sunlight in order to remove any EM interference. The "town" is actually made up of large warehouses holding a special substance that can contain vast amounts of data. After all, it's not just the information from brain cells but also the neurons that link these brain cells, and neurons that link those neurons, etc. The experiment is a partial success, as the man expires with 2% of his mind still unrecorded. Additionally, the scientists performing the experiment have no idea what to do with the stored memories, as they have no way to actually interpret the information. The idea is to eventually develop the means to allow people to live on as electronic entities, but that is far off.
  • Keith Laumer's A Trace of Memory. An amnesiac alien living as a human on Earth must recover the device in which his full memories are stored. He later discovers that on his home planet almost everyone has this problem.
  • In The Worthing Saga, the cold sleep used to enable starflight has the unfortunate side effect of completely wiping a person's memory. The solution, spheres which record this and replay it into the subject's brain.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Babylon 5 episode "Deathwalker" had Talia Winters meeting with Kosh and a strange cybernetic man who apparently was recording her thoughts and saving them on a data crystal. Word of God is that it would be used to restore her personality after she was taken over by the Psi Corps personality, but Andrea Thompson left the show, so that never came to fruition.
  • The revival series of Doctor Who introduces the Chameleon Arch, a device of Gallifreyan origin that can change a person's DNA and species. Time Lords who use this device store their essence, including their memories in a fobwatch, which when opened restores the Time Lord to their original self. The Tenth Doctor uses the Chameleon Arch to hide from an enemy in the two-parter "Human Nature" / "The Family of Blood", becoming a Upper-Class Twit named John Smith in early 20th Century England. In "Utopia", it is revealed that "Professor Yana" is the Master after using the Chameleon Arch, having used it to escape into the end of time to avoid the Last Great Time War.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Mr. Gold can apparently use a dreamcatcher to capture and hold memories.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons again got one of everything. The Thought Bottle, an item that appeared in Tome of Magic, does exactly this. Possible uses as a relatively secure data medium or Memory Gambit prop were mentioned.
    • In Forgotten Realms tel'kiira ("elven lore-gem") are memory storage devices used as write-at-will personal logs and spellbooks, normally usable only by elves and worn mostly by nobility. Physically, it's a little gem stuck on the forehead of its wearer, most of the time sunk in and not visible. Ancestral lore-gem worn by generations of heirs of a noble House has a value much like the flag of a military unit: not waved around in vain, and losing it counts as a major disgrace. An elven kingdom that didn't allowed humans into capital knighted a human just for carrying one of these from a dying heir to the new rightful wearer, past their guards. Variants include books of elven advanced magic, secret agents' tools and occasional hybrids with other enchanted gems, up to ioun stones turned into semi-sentient defensive spellgem following the owner.
    • In the Ravenloft setting's domain of Darkon, the darklord Azalin has a library of self-writing books that document the lives of all that nation's residents. If a non-Darkonese stays within the domain too long, their original memories are supplanted by those of having been born and grown up in Darkon, and a book documenting their real history appears in Azalin's library.
    • The Society of Sensation in the Planescape setting purchases memories from adventurers to stock their library. Anyone who visits them can then pay to "view" the memory as though experiencing it themselves. The goal of the Society is to allow everyone to experience everything, so the library allows their members to experience things they either can't or won't do themselves.
  • "XPs" (Experience Playbacks) in Eclipse Phase are essentially the same thing as slinkys. Though one with the "mnemmonic augmentation" implant can make them from archived memories stored in their cortical stack.
  • In Exalted there are several means of memory transfer. The most obvious is the celestial exaltations themselves, given that a celestial exaltation is a recycled part of god-soul that holds aspects of all its former incarnations. The other is dream stones and other memory crystals. These can be found in tombs or on the black market (dream stones are apparently nearly as addictive as the Xbox of the gods). Makes sense when you realize that the mortal vessels needed to be brought back up to snuff relatively quickly in order to deal with the Primordials or they'd pretty much be reduced to glittering fodder.
  • "Slinkys" (Sensory links) in GURPS Transhuman Space are technically recordings of one's experiences while their "upslink" implant is active, but they fill the same function.
  • In Nomine has Memory Pearl artifacts which are pearl-like objects that can be used to remove/store memories, often used (especially by demons) to remove inconvenient knowledge from a temporary employee/associate often as part of the terms of employment.
  • A central part of Mindjammer is the Mindscape, essentially an entire wireless Internet devoted entirely to storing and sharing "exomemories". The name of the setting even comes from the starships used to keep the Mindscape up-to-date across interstellar distances (FTL Travel but no communications).
  • While MemoMax technology was really just intended to explain why Paranoia characters can retain their memories and personalities even after being replaced by their own clones, later editions would explore some of the darker implications of the technology.
  • From Wraith: The Oblivion, we get the Mnemoi and their Arcanos, Mnemosynis, the sole purpose of which is to transfer and manipulate memories. In a place where memories are important for maintaining one's existence, the Mnemoi are far from welcome, and are therefore one of the three Forbidden Guilds. In actuality, the Mnemoi are using their talents to store the memories of Charon for his return, and the whole persecuted thing is a ruse. One that, sadly, works a bit too well in the end.

    Video Games 
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent has a few unexplained cylinders of Alexander's (each containing a single vague memory) scattered throughout the castle.
  • Downplayed by Kokonoe in BlazBlue. She doesn't save her memories per se, but she saves information and news regarding people and the world as backups, put in her special lab in the Boundary where any reality-warping effect (which may also affect her) cannot reach, allowing her to keep track of what happened in case she gets amnesia.
  • In Cyberpunk 2077 there are braindances, which are human memories saved as computer data that with the proper equipment allow the viewer to relive the recorded memories of someone else with all the senses they experienced at the time, including emotions. This being a Crapsack World, there's also the illegal Snuff Film variant called Extreme Braindances (XBDs) that allow people to relive gruesome and bizarre scenes, including violence, torture, and even rape and murder.
  • Mass Effect:
    • "Grayboxes", a piece of technology introduced in Kasumi's missions, serve this function, and her loyalty mission in the second game revolves around recovering one.
    • Javik, your potential Prothean DLC squadmate in Mass Effect 3, possesses an artifact he calls an Echo Shard that contains the memories that each Prothean that had it before him placed into it. The player character can advise him on whether to experience the memories contained or not — which, if he doesn't use it, will end up with him wondering what peace will be like, or, if he does use it, becoming a Death Seeker, and he may pass it on to Shepard in London.
  • In Shadow Warrior (2013) the Whisperers are golems that were powered by one of the Ancients sealing their memories of their sister Ameonna inside. They were originally viewed as an abomination but eventually deemed necessary to recover the Nobitsura Kage.
    Hoji: I will always remember the day that led me to you. And that is why I must bury your memory. I will not be ruled by pain.
  • In Starcraft II Wings Of Liberty, Raynor is given a crystal that contains Zeratul's memories of what he learned about the Zerg and the Fallen One.
  • A more mundane version in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice. Sorin Sprocket and his sister were involved in a car accident, and she died from her injuries. The trauma of seeing his sister die and the guilt of feeling that he was responsible because he was the driver has caused him to develop anterograde amnesia — every morning when he wakes up, the last thing he remembers is the car accident, and everything else that's happened since then is lost to him. Once he realized that he was forgetting things, he began detailing in his notebook every day of his life in minute detail and uses it as a frame of reference to remember everything, including his fiancee Ellen's love for him. He quickly becomes panicked when he doesn't have his notebook, and the revelation that his trusted butler Pierce has tampered with it distresses him greatly, as it causes him to doubt the veracity of all his entries, and as such, all of his memories.
  • The Sword of Melqart in Tears to Tiara 2 stores the memories of all its past users. However, they are not easily accessible, and not being strong enough would cause the sword to wipe the memory of the user. Hasdrubal uses this to purposely wipe the memory of his son Hamil so the secrets of their family does not fall into the hands of The Empire.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: Soul Tears are objects that Ivy can get from certain people that store a kind of memory that the reflecting pond can display.
  • Planescape: Torment, being set in the Planescape setting, also has the Sensory Stones. A few of these are particularly important, and play on the trope:
    • Deionarra's memory of a conversation with a past incarnation of the Nameless One. This recalls the Nameless One's own past memories, and he ends up experiencing both sides of the conversation at the same time.
    • A "memory" of another incarnation (the Paranoid), in reality a trap designed to trap the mind of any other incarnation who uses it.
    • A poor sod's memory of being tortured by someone and asked to bring along a message. The torturer is Ravel the Hag, and you can unlock a "conversation" of sorts with the memory of her.
    • The Bronze Sphere turns out to be one, albeit quite difficult to open. If you do so, the knowledge obtained grants you two millions experience points, and a few other bonuses.
  • In the RuneScape quest "Plague's End", your clue to "find" the late Lady Ithell is that she "poured her soul into her final work". This is very literal: once you find the blueprints for her last statue and build it, Kelyn inherits Lady Ithell's memories and leadership by studying the statue.
  • The Diary in The Hayseed Knight allows Ader to view Sep's memories. Every entry allows Ader to see the events through her eyes though the events do not occur in chronological order.

    Western Animation 
  • In Silverhawks, recurring villain Zero the Memory Thief stores the memories he's drained on tapes worn on his chest.
  • The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: This is the power of the seventh crystal, which resides in Quellor's black box. It can even project the memories it's stolen, a discovery that reveals images of Teddy himself as a baby contained therein despite him growing up in Rilonia. It's hinted that the crystal formerly only copied memories rather performing a Brain Drain, but the crack it's sustained may have corrupted it's ability.