Cultural Tourism in America: The Quest for What It Means to Be “American”


The word ‘monument’ comes from the Latin term monitor, which means “to signify all things which call to mind the memory of some subject to those absent from this place or time” and is defined as “something erected in memory of a person, event, etc. as a building, pillar or statue.”[1]Monuments are made to honor the past and to pay homage to those who society should continue to remember beyond their time. By examining who or what people choose to memorialize, you can tell a lot about what the values or beliefs a culture may have. For this reason, monuments can carry political and social implications in how an audience may interpret them. “The monument expresses the power and sense of society that gives it meaning, and at the same time obscures competing claims for authority and meaning. Designed to be permanent, the actual monument, changes constantly as it renegotiates ideals, defining the past to affect the present and future.”[2]Many factors contribute to the interpretation of a statue and what it may or may not symbolize. The geographical positioning of a statue affects the way an audience perceives it. For example, a statue of Robert E. Lee may be received differently in a town in the South compared to a Northern city. Monuments are physical objects that we then place value and emotion on. Since historical events, upon retrospective examination, can be viewed as controversial, the monuments honoring them can create controversy as well. According to Nietzsche, “a ‘monumental’ view of the past, a particular kind of consciousness instantiated in the physical stone of monuments, represents “a belief in the coherence and continuity of what is great in all ages, it is a protest against the change of generations.”[3]This relationship between history and a nation show the connection that people have with whatever is being memorialized and how they view and choose to remember it.

Not only do these monuments symbolize a time in history for individuals in society, but they also join in the creation of a collective cultural heritage of a nation. The people and events of the past that a nation or region chooses to celebrate contributes greatly to their culture and demonstrates how they interpret and view their past and present heritage. For this very reason, millions of Americans and international tourists, travel each year to these historical sites and monuments to discover their own personal heritage, American heritage or see a culture vastly different from their own. “Monuments are important, because people want to see them, and when that quest is realized actually or virtually, monuments become social agents.”[4]These monuments are considered social agents when people wish to visit them and see them for themselves. The process of traveling to them and experiencing them, create notions of personhood and history that society places value on. Monuments are surrounded by movement–people travel to visit them, those that visit move through and around them, rituals, protests, all occur in front of or near them. The idea of monuments being connected to societal movement relates to cultural tourism. Cultural tourism is defined as,

the very nature of traveling in order to understand and become familiar with way of life and history of a specific location accompanied by a range of cultural factors which can be presented in the context of tourism, these factors may include the food, entertainment, architecture, drink, hand crafted and manufactured products or every element representing characteristics of way of life in a particular destination.[5]

These very significant artifacts and monuments help the individual to form and create their own version of their cultural history and to better understand a national history. A nation’s heritage is formed through the collective understanding of the masses of society as to what it is defined as. There are many facets and versions of a story and of history and for this reason there are many different ways that a monument can connect with an audience and represent various things, therefore, creating different meanings from one person to another.

We see this in the events of Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2017. With the political climate at an all time tumultuous level with the recent election of President Donald Trump to office, tensions arose over the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee built in 1924. The statue shows the Confederate general on horseback, wielding a weapon and assumed to be headed into battle. The statue itself is not physically offensive, it is the man who it represents and who it was designed for that the contention arose from. With the Civil War nearly one-hundred-and-fifty years behind us, should we really be paying homage to a man that led an army whose entire battle cry and belief was the dissemination of the Union? Should we preserve and honor a man who fought to keep slavery a major artery of the South? These questions are still being contented in present day, but the majority of the opinions are leaning towards no. There are reasons that we memorialize an individual. Martin Luther King’s monument in Washington D.C. was erected to celebrate a man who led thousands of African America citizens in the fight for civil rights. He was a leader on one of the most changed paths in United States history and for this reason we honor him. But a man who represents ideals that our nation no longer, or ever truly wanted to believe in, why put a plaque on that name? There are two sides to this: first, there are those that feel that this is a true representation of our history and that it would be unethical to destroy something that was created in the past, and then there are those that hear this argument and point out the fact that a lot of these Confederate statues were built nearly fifty years after the Civil War ended. In the early 1900s, during the time of Jim Crow, these statues were seen as a form of enforcing and demonstrating white supremacy.[6]The events that occurred in Charlottesville, further demonstrate this reality given the fact that the group on the side that opposed the removal of the statues were neo-Nazi’s leading a white supremacy movement. The physical statue of Robert E. Lee demonstrates a time when the Confederates wished to overturn the balance and power of the Union and to create a new nation that would be governed by a white plantation aristocracy that existed since the creation of the colonies. The statue represents more than just the physical appearance of Robert E. Lee but the power and place that he came from and stood for. A dark era within the history of the United States that many acknowledge but do not feel is right to be memorialized.[7]The desire to understand and express American heritage is an idea as old as the nation itself and with the technological advancements seen within society, access to these monuments became increasingly easier.

After the Second World War, tourism boomed. Given the new advancements in technology and the financial prosperity that many experienced, the ability to travel and see different places around the United States became incredibly accessible. “Since that time, tourism has proved many times over to be one the most powerful economic, social, cultural, eco-logical and political forces in the world today.”[8]The creation of this new industry, sparked growing interest in pursuing that age old question of what it is to truly be “American.” This quest is as old as the times of Manifest Destiny. History naturally shaped and continues to contributes to how we define “American.” As Henry Nash Smith discusses in Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol & Myth, we see that this desire to define one’s heritage began at the start of the nation and continues to be a presence in modern society.

Men of Thomas Jefferson’s day emphasized freedom and republicanism as the defining characteristics of American society; the definitions of later thinkers stressed the cosmopolitan blending of a hundred peoples into one…but one of the most persistent generalizations concerning American life and character is the notion that our society has been shaped by the pull of a vacant continent drawing population westward.[9]

This idea of Manifest Destiny and a society being drawn from their homes out of pure curiosity is still seen in modern society. Despite our nation being fully populated from coast to coast and the idea of the frontier a notion of the past, Americans continue to be pioneers and find new ways to further exploration and the definition of “the American.”

The establishment of the railroad, as discussed in Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s, Railroad Space and Time, demonstrates how a new form of transportation not only changed how people moved from one place to another, but it also redefined the idea of space and time, suggesting that it was the “annihilation of space and time” in total. For the first time ever a given distance that would normally take a given amount of time to travel was completely turned on its head and changed, this distance was now obtainable in a much faster timeframe. The railroad knows only the point of birth and of destination and the places in between are lost among the travel.[10]This space in-between is a moving landscape as Mitchell Schwarzer discusses, “the moving landscape differs as well from the ordinary landscape. It is not a placer where we all live, work and interact… the moving landscape is a foremost produced zone.”[11]The complete change in space and time was the consequence and result of the railroad. We see this in the creation of a unified time system. Prior to the railroad, towns and regions all ran on their own separate time, when the railroad started to deliver people from one town to the next, the need for a standardized time and time zones emerged.[12]

The establishment of the New Deal by Franklin Roosevelt during the 1930s, created an explosion in infrastructure in the United States. Infrastructure in America typically takes on the name of people and not necessarily the place where the structure exists, for example the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey to New York up the Hudson River from Downtown Manhattan. This focus on naming infrastructure after people stressed the creation of public works for the people, by the people and for citizens to be proud of them. By dedicating these bridges, highways, and other structures to people it personified them and made them more than a space. Similar to how monuments take on the memory of the person that they symbolize or represent these structures became additional ways of showing and promoting American history and heritage. This original pride that infrastructure created after the New Deal, quickly diminished. Today, America has a deteriorating infrastructure system, with structures declining at a faster rate than they are being replaced. In the podcast by 99% Invisible, “Public Works: Rethinking America’s Transportation Infrastructure,” Henry Petroski discussed how money and the federal gas tax play a major role in the funding opportunities for American infrastructure. In today’s society, people value and show far more pride for their personal home or driveway over highways and national infrastructure. For this reason, there is less of an ambition to develop policy that would maintain and create better, longer-lasting and more attractive infrastructure, similar to other countries. This demonstrates how ideals can change throughout history. During the time of the New Deal, Americans were proud of the bridges that were being built and put a lot of thought into the aesthetic of them and other structures. Today, people are far less worried or bothered by how a bridge may look and, in many ways, take these forms of infrastructure for granted. By way of taxes, we are all part owners of the federal infrastructure and because of this we should want to be proud of it and what it represents.[13]

After the creation of railroads, came the automobile and eventually the national highway system. The creation of the automobile satisfied “a real need for transportation–a need as basic as food, clothing and shelter–but argues that this need has changed as the social and spatial patterns of American culture have changed.”[14]This new form of transport allowed for an even easier way to gain access to areas that many could not reach prior to this. It, in many ways, opened a new frontier. Pretty soon, the United States was a nation of drivers and with this transportation revolution, came an incredible expansion of access. People were able to reach places that they previously had only heard of before. It was economical and possible to go on vacation to areas far away. The eventual introduction of airplanes and air travel furthered the transportation revolution and only accelerated the time and space metamorphosis that the railroad started. This increase in transportation availability and opportunities caused a major spike in tourism. The growth of tourism sparked a new aspect to the idea of the American, sites became historical and national parks became destinations. Going on vacation used to be only be a primarily elite pastime, left only to the nations wealthiest groups. With the introduction of the automobile, it became readily available for the middle class to take part in. The car changed the nature of traveling, “they could travel at their own pace, move around from place to place, wander off the beaten track, and even enjoy the trip to one’s destination.”[15]This ability to meander to ones destination made it possible to make multiple stops along the way, which was beneficial for these monuments and historical locations that could be seen as a stop on the way to various places. The creation of the tourism industry not only created economic benefits but also gave local populations an opportunity to be proud of their unique heritage and to have the chance to share it with others, developing the idea of cultural heritage on both a local and national level.

An area’s historical identity and cultural heritage is created by that town, city, or nation. This can be seen in the example of the Rocky Balboa statue in Philadelphia. This statue, although completely constructed after a fictional character, has now weaved its way into the cultural heritage of Philadelphia and the suburbs around it. Despite its fictional foundation, the city continues to rally behind Rocky, believing that it is a metaphor for hope and a symbol that “greatness can come out of this city” as well as an artistic representation of the hopes and dreams of Philly. It speaks to the white working class individual, who historically populated the city, further contributing to their cultural heritage. As one of the city’s most famous pieces of public art, the statue sees thousands of tourists each year. During Super Bowl LII, in 2018, the statue was the site of celebration for many fans after the Philadelphia Eagle’s victory. This is an example of the social consequences that statues can create and how they contribute to tourism and heritage as well. An entire city can rally behind a statue of a fictional man who they believe embodies the city’s goals and aspirations.[16]

This national quest for cultural heritage that can be found within the history that monuments preserve is aided in the development of transportation technology that created better access to these locations to allow more people to explore these ideas of the past, present and future. Monuments preserve the past but help to shape the ideals that should remain engrained in the present society. Just as it was in the times of the frontier, there will always be a desire in the American spirit to continue to search for the true meaning of what it means to be an American and what aspects of society we can look and study in hopes of creating a better understanding of what this may be. The two-hundred-year old idea of Manifest Destiny continues to beat in the hearts of American people, whether in the same way that Smith was referring to, or a more modern version, Americans still seek lands and adventures beyond where they currently stand in hopes of finding what it truly means to be “American.”

[1]Hamilton, Annette. “Monuments and memory.” Continuum 3, no. 1 (1990): 101-114.

[2]Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin. Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade.(University of Chicago, 2003), 5.

[3]Levinson, Sanford. Written in stone: Public monuments in changing societies. Duke University Press, 1998.

[4]Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin. Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade.(University of Chicago, 2003), 5.

[5]Mousavi, Sina, Naciye Doratli Seyed, Seyed Nima Mousavi, and Fereshte Moradiahari. “„Defining Cultural Tourism.“.” In U International Conference on Civil, Architecture and Sustainable Development, pp. 1-2.

[6]Winberry, John J. “” Lest We Forget”: The Confederate monument and the Southern townscape.” Southeastern Geographer 23, no. 2 (1983): 107-121.

[7]Fortin, Jacey. “The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm.” The New York Times (2017).

[8]Timothy, Dallen J., and Stephen W. Boyd. “Heritage tourism in the 21st century: Valued traditions and new perspectives.” Journal of heritage tourism 1, no. 1 (2006): 1-16.

[9]Smith, Henry Nash. “Virgin land; the American West as symbol and myth.” (1950).

[10]Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. “Railroad space and railroad time.” New German Critique 14 (1978): 31-40.

[11]Schwarzer, Mitchell. “The moving landscape.” Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade (2003): 83-102.

[12]Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. “Railroad space and railroad time.” New German Critique 14 (1978): 31-40.

[13]99% Invisible. Public Works: Rethinking America’s Transportation Infrastructure. 2016

[14]David L. Lewis and Laurence Goldstein. The Automobile and American Culture. (University of Michigan, 1980) 90.

[15]Weiss, Thomas. “Tourism in America before World War II.” The Journal of Economic History 64, no. 2 (2004): 289-327.

[16]Visit Philadelphia. “The Rocky Statue and the Rocky Steps.”

To Be or Not To Be; A Timeline Of The Debate Over Confederate Monuments in America

This timeline examines the historical past and present events surrounding Confederate Monuments. On August 11thand 12thof 2017, a rally occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia which would spark a movement that continues to impact the concept of public space and public monuments throughout the United States and even in the international sphere. This rally was in opposition to the city of Charlottesville’s previous decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee and rename the Lee Park (where the statue was located) to Emancipation Park. The individuals who were against the removal of the statue were members of the white supremacy and Neo-Nazi [1] movements and felt that removing this statue and others around the nation was disrupting history and paying poor homage to a Civil War ‘hero.’

Monuments carry a deep connection with history and memory. History and memory are not synonymous. This is demonstrated through the Confederate monuments that we see throughout the United States. A majority of the Confederate monuments were built during the Jim Crow Era [4]. This was post-Civil War during Reconstruction when white Southerners specifically struggled to find their new place in society since they no longer held power over black individuals after emancipation. Groups such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who hoped to preserve the image of their relatives–husbands, sons, fathers, and grandfathers–who fought under the Confederate flag. Although, this creation of monuments today is seen as an attempt to maintain the white supremacy of the ‘Old South’ when slavery existed and there was a clear social hierarchy. Many believe that for these reasons, the statues should be removed since they do not memorialize people who hold the current values of our nation.

Our current President Donald Trump, took to Twitter to announce his beliefs on the matter surrounding Charlottesville and beyond. He stated “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” as well as “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” [5]. This statement demonstrates that every individual places different values on these spaces and places that we erect in order to honor the past. That the question of whether or not we Confederate heroes and ideals should be celebrated in our culture or not is at the forefront of this debate and also whether these statues and memorials represent an extreme form of veiled racism. There are three ways in which these monuments can be evaluated on whether they are racist or not first, it depends on who the monument represents, second, it depends on what aspect of the individual is being celebrated and finally, the intentions of those who created or sponsored it must come to the foreground [6]. Monuments overall carry a remarkable amount of symbolism and I included a few examples of different types of monuments that do not have to do with the Civil War Era. These examples are Devil’s Tower, which is a natural national monument in Wyoming which is held by the National Park Service and is among many national monuments that are naturally created and recognized. Additionally, I incorporated the Rocky Statue and what it means and represents for the city of Philadelphia, it is a fictional character who has been amplified into this image of the city and one of the largest attractions in Philadelphia.

Monuments are personal in many ways and despite the fact that they commonly rest in public spaces, they are left to the interpretation of the individual. For this reason, the debate over Confederate monuments will continue to boil. Something that I may view as racist and a celebration of a disjointed time in our country’s history, one may see as a removal of Southern heritage and disrespectful towards their memory. As the debate continues it will be interesting to see what happens to these monuments and the spaces that they used to occupy.

Works Cited

[1] Fortin, Jacey. “The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm.” The New York Times (2017).

[2] Winberry, John J. “” Lest We Forget”: The Confederate monument and the Southern townscape.” Southeastern Geographer 23, no. 2 (1983): 107-121.

[3] Nora, Pierre. “Between memory and history: Les lieux de mémoire.” Representations (1989): 7-24.

[4] Valentino, Nicholas A., and David O. Sears. “Old times there are not forgotten: Race and partisan realignment in the contemporary South.” American Journal of Political Science49, no. 3 (2005): 672-688.

[5] Julia Zorthian. “President Trump Says It’s ‘Sad’ to See U.S. Culture ‘Ripped Apart’ by Removing Confederate Statues.” Time. (August 17, 2017)

[6] Demetriou, Dan, and Ajume Wingo. “The Ethics of Racist Monuments.” (2018).

[7] Hamilton, Annette. “Monuments and memory.” Continuum 3, no. 1 (1990): 101-114.

[8]Burling, Elizabeth J. “Policy Strategies for Monuments and Memorials.” (2005).

[9] Shelton, Hal T. General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution: From Redcoat to Rebel. Vol. 29. NYU Press, 1994.

[10] Channing, Steven A. Crisis of Fear: Secession in South Carolina. No. 730. WW Norton & Company, 1974.

[11] Architect of the Capital. National Statuary Hall Collection.

[12] Lazarus, Emma, and Valenti Angelo. The new colossus. Project Gutenberg, 1949.

[13] Cox, Karen Lynne. “Women, the Lost Cause, and the New South: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the transmission of Confederate culture, 1894-1919.” (1997).

[14] Cross, Raymond, and Elizabeth Brenneman. “Devils Tower at the Crossroads: The National Park Service and the Preservation of Native American Cultural Resources in the 21st Century.” Pub. Land & Resources L. Rev. 18 (1997): 5.

[15] Vanderslice, John Mitchell. Gettysburg: A History of the Gettysburg Battle-field Memorial Association, with an Account of the Battle. Memorial association, 1897.

[16] Sandage, Scott A. “A marble house divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the civil rights movement, and the politics of memory, 1939-1963.” The Journal of American History 80, no. 1 (1993): 135-167.

[17] Adam Raymond. A Running List of Confederate Monuments Removed Across the Country. New York Magazine (August 2017)

[18] Chris Kahn. A majority of Americans want to preserve Confederate monuments: Reuters/Ipsos poll. Reuters (August 21, 2017)

[19] Matthew Watkins. UT-Austin removes Confederate statues in the middle of the night.Texas Tribune (August 20, 2017).

[20] Frank Heinz. Six Flags Over Texas Removes Confederate, Other Historic Flags From Park. NBC Dallas-Fort Worth (August 18, 2017)

The Value We Place On Metal and Stone; Monuments in America

1. Definition of a Monument:

The official definition of a monument is “something erected in memory of a person, event, etc. as a building, pillar or statue.” The name monument comes from the Latin term Monitor, which means “to signify all things which call to mind the memory of some subject to those absent from this place or time.” Since the development of ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt, the practice of memorializing or honoring someone or something came to be. At these times monuments were largely made in honor of the great and powerful. Over the course of history, people created monuments to honor and preserve the memory of a person, place, or event, big and small. In many instances, these statues and monuments honor war heroes or the victims of a war and other influential members of society. These war memorials offer insights into the ways in which national cultures conceive their pasts.

For this reason, monuments can carry political and social implications in how an audience may chose to interpret what they represent. Many factors contribute to the interpretation of a statue and what it may or may not symbolize. The geographical positioning of a statue affects the way the audience values the statue, for example a statue of Robert E. Lee may be received differently in a town in the south compared to a northern city. Monuments are simply objects that we then place value on and emotion into. Since historical events upon retrospective examination can be viewed as controversial, the monuments honoring them can create controversy as well. This relationship between history and a nation show the connection that the people have with that event and how they view and choose to remember a time in the past.

Source: Hamilton, Annette. “Monuments and memory.” Continuum 3, no. 1 (1990): 101-114.


2. Monuments and Memory: 

Monuments carry a deep connection with history and memory. History and memory are not synonymous. Memory is “life, borne by living societies founded in its name” and history is, on the other hand, “the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what is no longer” (8). Various cultures and countries influence how history is portrayed and what is memorialized. “In the United States, for example, a country of plural memories and diverse traditions, historiography is more pragmatic. Different interpretations of the Revolution or of the Civil War do not threaten the American tradition because, in some sense, no such thing exists” (10). The definition of the present as defined by the nation, is greatly influenced by the past and the history of the country.

Monuments and memorials stemmed out of this national desire to preserve a country’s heritage and history. By honoring the past it helps to develop the type of values that the nation hopes to portray and express in the future. The Washington Monument stands tall over the capital of the United States and nothing can exceed its height according to building code in Washington D.C. It symbolizes the power of America and the desire to express this throughout the world.

Source: Nora, Pierre. “Between memory and history: Les lieux de mémoire.” Representations (1989): 7-24.


3. American Example:

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is a national symbol. The “Lincoln Memorial was conceived as a symbol of national consensus, linking North and South on holy, national ground” (141). We know this location as the setting of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In King’s speech he begins by stating, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation” (157). It is where thousands protested the Vietnam War, where the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom occurred.

For decades the Lincoln Memorial represents the history of the past and also represents a symbol of protests to change the future. Not only is it a symbol of the nation, but it also is the location for many historical political protests. In 1939, an African-American woman by the name of Marian Anderson sung the song “My Country ‘Tis of thee” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The concert was held by a civil rights leader and soon it became an exciting new beginning for the Lincoln Memorial as a stage for progressive ideas. It was not the first use of the Lincoln Memorial as a grounds for protest but it was the first mass gathering of black protestors attempting to gain national publicity. This particular setting is interesting given the uncertain relationship between African Americans and Abraham Lincoln himself. Those protesting utilized the memory of Lincoln in their favor as a “political weapon, in the process of layering and changing the public meanings of the hero and his shrine” (136). Pierre Nora called the Lincoln Memorial the best American example of a ‘memory site’ which is a place where “we struggle over the tensions between our experience of the past (memory) and our organization of it (history)… Memory sites are loci of struggle between the official groups that often create them and the vernacular groups that inevitably interpret and reinterpret them in competing ways” (137).

Source: Sandage, Scott A. “A marble house divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the civil rights movement, and the politics of memory, 1939-1963.” The Journal of American History 80, no. 1 (1993): 135-167.

4. Trinity Example:

Directly in the center of the quad we have our own Trinity example of a monument. Originally made to be placed over his grave, the statue of Bishop Thomas Church Brownell who founded and was the first president of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1823, stands tall over Trinity’s campus. In the statue he stands with his right hand outstretched and his left hand holding a Bible, which is a pose representative of traditional orators. The statue first was erected in 1869 and stood on the college’s original location of Bushnell Park and was later moved to Trinity College’s current campus in 1878. The statue is made of bronze and sits on top of a 16-foot-tall granite pedestal. The statue was gifted to the college by Brownell’s son-in-law, Gordon W. Burnham.

He stands at the center of the quad and is the backdrop for matriculation, convocation, and eventually graduation every year for all incoming and graduating classes.


Statue of Thomas Church Brownell at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

5. Symbolism of Monuments:

As mentioned before, monuments are not just blocks of stone created for people to look at in awe. They are made in representation of someone or something. Sometimes the symbolism of these statues or monuments change over time and develop new meanings. An example of this would be the Statue of Liberty found in New York, New York. The Statue of Liberty, also know as “Lady Liberty” came to the United States as a gift from Frenchman Edouard de Laboulaye. It was created to celebrate and honor the centennial of the American Declaration and the United States of America. Its original name was “Liberty Enlightening the World.” The Americans built the pedestal and the French sculpted the statue. Funding was slow and difficult but eventually she was built and shipped in 350 separate parts across the Atlantic Ocean. She arrived as a symbol of the nation’s birth but grew into much more than that. During this time period, many immigrants were entering into the United States by way of Ellis Island, New York. Those immigrants who sailed past her on their way into the America that they had dreamed of saw her as a beacon of hope. She became an emblem and a mascot of sorts to the millions of immigrants who came to America following a dream of a better way of life than where they had come from. A comfort of sorts that they had at last arrived at their destination.

On October 28, 1936 on the Statue of Liberty’s fiftieth anniversary President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke, “It is the memory of all these eager seeking millions that makes this one of America’s places of great romance. Looking down this great harbor I like to think of the countless numbers of inbound vessels that have made this port. I like to think of the men and women who, with the break of dawn off Sandy Hook, have strained their eyes to the west for a glimpse of the New World.” His profound words further highlight the theme of monuments as areas of emotion and artifacts that symbolize more than they may initially intend.

Source: Lazarus, Emma, and Valenti Angelo. The new colossus. Project Gutenberg, 1949.

6. Term’s Transformation:

Monuments traditionally commemorate veterans, philosophers, and society’s most influential members, but in more modern times we have seen the introduction of pop culture into monuments. An example of this is the Rocky Balboa statue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The scene in the movie shows Rocky running through the streets of Philadelphia with the famous Rocky Theme song cheering him and the Philadelphians that join him along his trek up the Art Museum steps. When he reaches the top he throws his hands up in victory and this is the exact moment that the statue memorializes. The statue was introduced to the city for the filming of Rocky III later donated to the city that now remains as a monument to a fictional boxer…but it is so much more than that to the city of Philadelphia. As one of the city’s most famous pieces of public art the statue sees thousands of tourists each year. Initially, there was much negative response to the sculpture claiming that it was an ugly movie prop and that it should not be at the base of the city’s esteemed art museum, some claiming that they hoped it would be dumped into the Schuylkill River. This debate over whether it was appropriate to keep Rocky where he was, demonstrates a debate over public art and memorialism, in its portray of a moment in pop culture and not in relation to the history of Philadelphia itself. Despite the fact that the statue represents a fictional character the city of Philadelphia continues to rally behind it, believing that it is a metaphor for hope and a symbol that “greatness can come out of this city” and an artistic representation of the hopes and dreams of Philly.

During the Super Bowl LII, the statue came under attack by Vikings fans and Patriots fans, adorning him in the opposing team’s gear. This action rattled the city of Philadelphia in what it represented. Rocky stands for Philly and for all of it means and therefore, Eagles fans believed that the only colors he should be decorated in are green and white. This is an example of the social consequences that statues can create. An entire city can rally behind a statue of a fictional man who they believe embodies the city’s goals and aspirations. People from other places recognize this statue as just that and target it in a way to create an uproar. Although not a political statement or a largely historically significant commemoration, the shift of statues from honoring war heroes to pop culture emblems may not be as terrible as the initial protestors thought.

Source: Burling, Elizabeth J. “Policy Strategies for Monuments and Memorials.” (2005).

Rocky running up the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. (

7. Controversy Behind Monuments:

In the summer of 2017, controversy arose in Charlottesville, VA over a statue of Robert E. Lee. Questions over whether a statue of the Confederate General should be honored and maintained during this day in age and what is represented arose. Riots and protests began all stemming from the statue. The statue shows Lee on horseback with just the words Robert Edward Lee written on it. White nationalists marched on the city to protest its plans to remove the statue that had been there since 1924. Residents of the city, as well as members of the N.A.A.C.P. wished for it to be removed. This debate highlights the overall issue of whether confederate soldiers should be memorized at all. “The violence this weekend was one of the bloodiest fights over the campaigns across the South to remove Confederate monuments, and the statue remains a lightning rod in Charlottesville.” This sentiment demonstrates the severity of the issue at hand. The struggle between the north and the south still holds its roots, one hundred and fifty years later. It goes beyond waving the Confederate flag and showing your ‘loyalty to the South’ but to statues that at one point in time people were accepting of and now questions are arising on why we should memorialize someone who did not support the nation that we currently are a part of.

This highlights the various values and emotions that people place on monuments. The meaning behind a statue or a building created in honor of someone or something can create controversy and conflict. A person viewed as a hero to one group may be viewed the opposite by another.

Source: Fortin, Jacey. “The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm.” The New York Times (2017).

8. Animals and Monuments:

In 1925, a statue of a dog (either a Husky, Alaskan Malamute, or Siberian wolfhound), by the name of Balto, called Central Park in New York City his home. Balto was a real dog, he rose to national fame in January of 1925 as the leader of a dog sled team. Balto set out with his team on a 650-mile trek to deliver a diphtheria anti-toxin that would successfully thwarted an epidemic in Nome, Alaska. The trip only took them five and a half days to complete. Nome, Alaska is the town where the Iditarod sled dog race ends and Balto, along with his team, participated in as well. When word of this story of triumph over nature and human and animal connection and cooperation got out to the rest of the world, Balto and his team went from local heroes to national ones. The story would be repeated for generations as the quintessential tale of survival. Soon after the event, decisions were made to create a commemorative statue of Balto in Central Park in New York City.

There is a great human connection between humans and animals and particularly humans and service animals. A statue was erected of Sirius, the only rescue dog to die in the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. We create attachments to animals in the same way that we do to human beings, therefore, it makes sense that we would want to memorialize those creatures who impacted our lives in similar ways to the influential human beings that we see preserved in stone and metal.

Source: Kean, Hilda. “Balto, the Alaskan dog and his statue in New York’s Central Park: animal representation and national heritage.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 15, no. 5 (2009): 413-430.

Balto Statue in Central Park, New York, NY (

9. Famous Speech:

On January 18, 2009 President Barack Obama gave a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. This speech was given two days prior to his inauguration and was in honor of the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech given at the exact same location. He chose to speak at this location for what it means to the American people and the historical significance it beholds. He states “what gives me that hope is what I see when I look out across this mall. For in these monuments are chiseled those unlikely stories that affirm our unyielding faith–a faith that anything is possible in America.” This idea embodies what a monument is to society. How an object can become so much more through the placement of emotions and value on it. He describes the Washington Monument saying, “rising before us stands a memorial to a man who led a small band of farmers and shopkeepers in revolution against the army of an Empire, all for the sake of an idea.” He then references Martin Luther King Jr. stating, “directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King, and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character’s content.” Lastly he references Abraham Lincoln and the memorial created in his honor, “behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible.” As the first black president Obama was referencing the strides that Lincoln took in preparing the nation to reach this momentous day, through compromise and strife he united the two sides of the Civil War and also in the process, emancipated the slaves. He then states that it is not the stone and marble that he finds the most hope in, but in the American people themselves and that these memorials embody these values and that this common thread “runs through every memorial on this mall; that connects us to all those who struggled and sacrificed and stood here before.”


President Barack Obama giving a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial (

10. Fun Facts: 

The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. is 555 feet tall. It was built in two separate phases, one was private from 1848-1854 and the other one was public from 1876-1884. Throughout this timeframe there were many different versions and plans of what it would look like. Eventually, it was built after the shape of an Egyptian obelisk as a demonstration of ancient civilizations and their timelessness. It was built as a tribute to George Washington, the “most essential Founding Father.” At the time that it was built it was the tallest building the world. Originally the elevator installed in the monument was steam-driven and took 10-12 minutes to reach the top of the monument, it was later replaced with an electric elevator that shortened the ride time.