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Public Art: O’Dowd Students Think Critically about Memorializing the Past

This spring, our AP English students engaged in scholarship and debate on issues related to public art – researching the removal, preservation and recontextualization of pieces around the world. In March, Professor James Campbell, who teaches US History at Stanford University, guest lectured on this subject. “I am intrigued by the ways in which societies tell stories about their pasts,” he says. “Not only in textbooks and academic monographs but also in historic sites, museums, memorials, movies, and political movements.”

In class, students considered works including the World War II and Vietnam War memorials in DC, Confederate monuments, and Holocaust memorials, such as Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation in Paris. Professor Campbell encouraged the class to reflect on how historical memory often involves invention, revision, evasion, and even erasure.

In response, students were tasked with researching a specific era of American history, and creating their own monument, memorial, or installation to remember that time period.

Project 130 is a monument planned by a team of four students to memorialize the 130 Black women who were lynched between 1880 and 1930.

This proposed memorial would replace the Madison County Confederate Monument in Tennessee, helping the South grapple with its history of violence. Click here to read more about Project 130.

“Monuments and memorials invite us to reflect on who we are as people,” said Alejandra Mart ’22, “and what about our past that we cherish or want to make amends for.”


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