Senior Seminar on Public Monuments
Sarah Blake McHam
This seminar will address the issues surrounding public monuments from the nineteenth century through the present day. It will focus on sculptures commissioned to commemorate major events in the United States, but will also consider some important European examples. Until the unveiling of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the early 1980s, conventional wisdom held that the public monument was a dead form, killed by the lack of common cultural associations and bonds among the citizenry. That evaluation has radically changed. Through the discussion of weekly readings about a selected group of recent memorials, the seminar will investigate how and why this happened. Students will be expected to prepare presentations of the readings, and ultimately to select a specific monument that they can study in person and do research on through original sources and documents, for example, through the Smithsonian listing of American monuments and at the archives of local historical societies. They will then present their research to the class, and write it up as a term paper.