Retrograde amnesia can occur after brain damage because this disrupts sites of storage, interrupts memory consolidation, or interferes with memory retrieval. While the retrieval failure account has been considered in several animal studies, recent work has focused mainly on memory consolidation, and the neural mechanisms responsible for reactivating memory from stored traces remain poorly understood. We now describe a new retrieval phenomenon in which rats' memory for a spatial location in a watermaze was first weakened by partial lesions of the hippocampus to a level at which it could not be detected. The animals were then reminded by the provision of incomplete and potentially misleading information-an escape platform in a novel location. Paradoxically, both incorrect and correct place information reactivated dormant memory traces equally, such that the previously trained spatial memory was now expressed. It was also established that the reminding procedure could not itself generate new learning in either the original environment, or in a new training situation. The key finding is the development of a protocol that definitively distinguishes reminding from new place learning and thereby reveals that a failure of memory during watermaze testing can arise, at least in part, from a disruption of memory retrieval.