A challenge for theories of episodic memory is to determine how we focus memory search on a set of recently learned items. Cognitive theories suggest that the recall of an item representation is driven by an internally maintained context representation that integrates incoming information with a long time-scale. Neural investigations have shown that recalling an item revives the pattern of brain activity present during its study. To link these neural and cognitive approaches, we propose a framework in which context is maintained and updated in prefrontal cortex, and is associated with item information through hippocampal projections. The proposed framework is broadly consistent with neurobiological studies of temporal integration and with studies of memory deficits in individuals with prefrontal damage.