Free and open to the public, this small-group discussion series encourages informed conversations around complex topics affecting Virginia. On the second Wednesday of each month, the Library will screen a segment from a documentary film, followed by a round-table conversation with input from a moderator and historical expert from the Library. Attendees are encouraged to share their perspectives with the group.
January 8, 2020’s event features a short documentary from the American Museum of Natural History, The Meaning of a Monument, about the Theodore Roosevelt monument in New York City. Our conversation will center around these historical and contemporary landmarks. The Library of Virginia’s director of Public Services and Outreach, Gregg Kimball, will lead with discussion. For more information, contact Emma Ito at email@example.com or 804.692.3726. Join the Meetup group to receive updates on upcoming conversations.
Potential Discussion Questions:
- What does it mean to memorialize someone or honor a moment in time? Does it feel like a requirement for memorialization that the symbol be in a public space? Does it need to remain in the place we choose? Even many years into the future? Will later generations understand what they are seeing?
- How do we curate and contextualize what we feel is important for later generations to know? Do we make it obvious that we are choosing which facts to portray? Should we share where to study any facts we choose to edit out? Will this symbol and story feel vital and relevant to future generations? For that matter, should it be expected to retain vitality or is this just for us? Will we leave future generations the option to determine their own relationships to and interpretations of this person or event?
- Public spaces are in a constant state of flux given the needs and priorities of communities. How much history should remain in place and prominent in a public space to be considered respectful? Are museums a respectful domain for historical items for which we no longer have room in our public spaces?
- Is there any relationship between how a community honors its history in “town squares” and how families honor their history in their communal living spaces? What happens there when we run out of room?
- Are current generations facing a dilemma about the physical footprint of humanity? IF they feel there is now good reason to have less physical “stuff,” will they feel the same about physical memorials? Do they keep their own physical memorial objects? Do current generations have a different level of awareness on the personal nature of their connection to an object vs. what it may mean to a stranger, an outsider or someone from another time frame?
- Are there ways to honor the artistic and creative integrity of a monument while no longer honoring the conscious or even unconscious intellectual concepts that were being embodied?
- Does it take future generations or outsiders to recognize the unconscious biases that may be on display in a memorial? Should those biases be ignored? Do we cling to those biases in order to cling to a community? Should communities adapt and change to newer awareness? How do we know when a new awareness is intrinsically positive for society and that it may be time to “update” our communal spaces to reflect the new ideals we honor now?
- How can we transition respectfully from old ideals to new ones? Change is hard for all of us. How can we open ourselves to change when it isn’t our own idea?
Library of Virginia Resources
- Controversial Monuments and Memorials : a Guide for Community Leaders by David Allison
- An Illustrated Guide to Virginia’s Confederate Monuments by Timothy Sedore
- Discovering Richmond Monuments : a History of River City Landmarks Beyond the Avenue by Robert Layton, Phil Riggan and Paul DiPasquale
- Monuments to the Lost Cause : Women, Art, and the Landscapes of Southern Memory by Cynthia Mills and Pamela Simpson
- Written in Stone : Public Monuments in Changing Societies Twentieth by Sanford Levinson
- Monuments : America’s History in Art and Memory by Judith Dupre
- Virginia’s Capitol Square : Its Buildings & Its Monuments by Mary Scott and Louise Catterall
- In the Shadow of Statues : a White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu
- Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves : Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America by Kirk Savage
- Confederate Statues and Memorialization by Catherine Clinton
- Richmond, Va. : a City of Monuments and Statues : Historical Highlights Recorded in Metal and Stone by R. Odell Byrd
- Slavery and Public History : the Tough Stuff of American Memory by James and Lois Horton
- Race, Slavery and the Civil War : the Tough Stuff of American History and Memory by James Horton and Amanda Kleintop
- Papers, 1902-1969, of Frederick William Sievers (1872-1966) of Richmond, Virginia, consisting of articles and other documents concerning his sculptures, the Stone Mountain Memorial in Georgia, the Virginia Gettysburg Monument Commission, and Matthew Fontaine Maury
- Washington National Monument Society. Creation Date 1833 – 1867
- Minute books of the Lee Monument Association as maintained by the Virginia Treasurer’s Office, 1875-1892
From the Library’s UncommonWealth Blog:
- The 1907 Monuments in the Press
- Statue Stories: George Washington’s Statue of the Deathless Name
- Complicated History: The Memorial to Robert E. Lee in Richmond
- Statue Stories: Thomas J. Jackson and Civil War Remembrance
- The website for the American Museum of Natural History exhibition Addressing the Statue can be found here. The Meaning of a Monument documentary that we discussed during our Conversation can be found here.
- American Historical Association Resources A very comprehensive list of articles and opinion pieces on monuments. “In the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy, historians across the country provided important historical context and insight to the public. The AHA compiled statements that our members, fellow historical societies, AHA Council members, and staff have made in op-eds, interviews, and other media conversations about the importance of historical thinking and knowledge within the current debate.” Includes this from the Executive Director “Whose Memory? Whose Monuments? History, Commemoration, and the Struggle for an Ethical Past.”
- See how historians are using the Clio app to offer interpretations of monuments and historic markers around the country, such as a walking tour of Richmond’s Monument Avenue. You can join in this crowd-sourced guide to history in your own backyard.
- Atlanta History Center created a Confederate Monument Interpretation Template This template is designed to guide researchers in providing factual information to use in a community dialogue about Confederate monuments. If the community decides that contextualization is the best option, this template can also be used to write a new historical marker.
- City of Charlottesville Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces: Report to City Council, December 19, 2016
- A list of the historic Confederate monuments erected in Southwest Virginia, as well as recent battlefield and commemorative markers by the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech.
- On Monument Avenue, a series of blogs from the American Civil War Museum
- The Monument Avenue Commission website
- NPR Code Switch episode “What Our Monuments (Don’t) Teach Us about Remembering the Past”
- Frederick Douglass, Speech at Arlington National Cemetery on Decoration Day, Virginia, May 30 1871.
- 2 blog posts from Civil War Memory on W.E.B. DuBois’ thoughts around the Confederate Monuments and Robert E. Lee.
- Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America by Erika Doss
Documentaries and Video:
- C-SPAN “Overview of Civil War Monuments” American Civil War Museum, Thomas Brown, February 25, 2017
- 60 Minutes “What happened to Two Removed Confederate Monuments” March 11, 2018
- National Council for the Humanities “Confederate Monuments and Contested Civic Space in the United States, 1865 to the 21st Century” W. Fitzhugh Brundage and Kevin M. Levin, Uploaded to YouTube, April 3, 2018
- Washington & Lee University “A Vexing and Awkward Dilemma: The Legacy of a Confederate Landscape,” W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Vimeo, February 14, 2018