In the British TV series “Sherlock,” Sherlock Holmes explains that the reason he is able to recall vast amounts of information is because he stores it in his “mind palace.” The mind palace, or method of loci, is a real mnemonic device which allows people to store and recall information in their memories through visualization.
First, you construct a mind palace by visualizing a place, real or imaginary, in your mind. When I created my first mind palace, I visualized my childhood bedroom because it was a place I knew intimately. Next, you designate certain objects in the room as “containers,” or places to store whatever pieces of information you wish to remember. You can have as many or as few containers as you want, but the more you have, the larger the amount of information you’ll be able to remember. I chose containers such as my bed, a picture hanging on the wall, and my bookshelf. If I had wanted, I could have made each individual book on my shelf a container, but since this was my first time creating a mind palace, I decided to keep things simple. Finally, you “place” each tidbit of information in its container by associating the image of the container with the information.
To use the mind palace, you mentally “walk through” the location, visualizing the containers as you go. The image of the container should trigger your memory of the information stored within. This takes some practice, but eventually, you can use your mind palace to store everything from your deepest secrets to your weekly grocery list.
I chose the mind palace as my emblem of visibility because within the memory system, the image (the container) precedes the word (the stored information). This correlates with Calvino’s insistence on the supremacy of the image in cultivating the imagination and aiding the memory. Within the mind palace, the image is a powerful evocative force; its visibility enables the recall of more abstract stored information.