Humanities in Class: Webinar Series

Memorials are Blunt Instruments: Commemoration at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Beyond

Lead Scholar: Kristin Hass (Associate Professor of American Culture, Coordinator for Humanities Collaboratory, University of Michigan)

May 5, 2022

National Council for the Social Studies

Why would someone bring a can of beer to a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.? Why would someone project a photograph of Breonna Taylor, a black health care worker killed in her sleep during a global pandemic, onto the base of a memorial to Robert E. Lee? The short answer to these questions is that memorials, even when they seem silent and dusty, really matter to Americans. This webinar will offer a short history of memorials in the U.S. and will focus on the collection of tens of thousands of objects left at the base of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to explore what these things, and these memorials, can tell us about how Americans have worked to define who belongs and who matters; It will open up a conversation about how and why memorials have been shockingly effective in marking these crucial, often brutal distinctions.

Subjects: History; Monuments; Vietnam Veterans Memorial; Collective Memory; Activism; American History