Current interpretations of hippocampal memory function are blind to the fact that viewing behaviors are pervasive and complicate the relationships among perception, behavior, memory, and brain activity. For example, hippocampal activity and associative memory demands increase with stimulus complexity. Stimulus complexity also strongly modulates viewing. Associative processing and viewing thus are often confounded, rendering interpretation of hippocampal activity ambiguous. Similar considerations challenge many accounts of hippocampal function. To explain relationships between memory and viewing, we propose that the hippocampus supports the online memory demands necessary to guide visual exploration. The hippocampus thus orchestrates memory-guided exploration that unfolds over time to build coherent memories. This new perspective on hippocampal function harmonizes with the fact that memory formation and exploratory viewing are tightly intertwined.