The paper retraces the history of the investigation of memory starting from the achievements of antiquity and its impact on the 19th century as well as contemporary analyses. The turning point in approaching the memory was constituted by the works of Maurice Halbwachs to whom we owe, in particular, the concept of 'collective memory' and the first methods of investigating it. The following part of the paper is a description of the recent works referring to Halbwachs' method, among them the monumental volumes by Pierre Nora 'Les lieux de mémoire'. A team of French scholars under his leadership created a peculiar 'canon' of national memory. While writing 'created' the authoress alludes to the assertion that a 'living memory' does not exist. Another model of modern research on memory is represented by Peter Burke, according to whom the memory should not be described, but rather approached as a new historical source. Among Polish scholars investigating memory Andrzej Feliks Grabski, Jerzy Maternicki and Barbara Szacka can be mentioned. It should be remarked however that they call their subject 'historical consciousness' - the two notions (memory and historical consciousness) having different significance. Distinguishing them may be assisted by psychology as well as (in a further perspective) by historical methods of research applied in approaching collective phenomena. Further reference to such notions like opinion, picture or image, which enjoy more popularity among historians, seems to be indispensable. The last part of the paper is devoted to the advantages of making use of memory in historical research - those give, among others, an opportunity to apply psychological mechanisms, to expend the source base, and - finally - to pave the way for 'alternative histories', the history of minorities which used to be overlooked until now in the official historiography.