Atkinson Forum in American Studies: Place, Memory, and the Public Monument

A pixelated image of Mount Rushmore set against a clear blue sky

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This two-day symposium will explore cultural, historical, design, and planning issues that arise around the creation of public memorials. The recent debates over Civil War monuments will serve as a starting point for a conversation about how communities identify people and places for commemoration, how meanings and values change over time and vary between groups, and how we give form to our universal need to ascribe significance to events, to interpret history, and to express our aspirations and identities.

The program consists of a series of formal presentations, panel and audience discussions, and an exhibition of new work by artist Mel Ziegler, 1000 Portraits. The forum runs from 12:30 p.m. on Friday, November 9, to 12 p.m. on Saturday, November 10, and will take place in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium and Bibliowicz Family Gallery.


November 9

12:30 p.m.
Edward Ayers: "Reckoning with Ourselves: Principles and Persuasion in Remembering the Civil War"
Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium

2:15 p.m.
Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium

  • Jeffrey Chusid: "Place, Memory, and the Public Monument: L.A. to Mostar to Berlin"
  • Erika Doss: "Never Forget: Staking Claims and Bearing Witness in America's Contemporary Memorial Landscape"
  • J. Meejin Yoon: "The Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at UVA"

4:30 p.m.
Gallery Reception: Mel Ziegler: 1,000 Portraits
Bibliowicz Family Gallery, Milstein Hall

5:30 p.m.
Mel Zeigler and Patricia C. Phillips: "A Conversation on Place, Memory, and the Public Monument"
Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium

November 10

9:30 a.m.
Milstein Hall dome

10 a.m.
Panel and audience response to presentations
Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium


Edward Ayers

headshot of a man with grey hair wearing a coat and tieEdward Ayers is Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus at the University of Richmond. Ayers has been named National Professor of the Year, received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama at the White House, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history. Ayers is one of the cohosts for BackStory, a popular podcast about American history. His newest book, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America, has received the Lincoln Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Gettysburg College.

Ayers helped lead the Future of Richmond's Past, a collaborative city-wide effort to commemorate the anniversaries of the Civil War and emancipation. With the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities, he oversaw a national conversation about the war and freedom in public libraries across the nation. Ayers is chair of the board of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, dedicated to telling an inclusive story of slavery and the war over slavery.

Emily Bergeron

a woman with long brown hair in front of a bookshelfEmily Bergeron (Ph.D. CRP '17) is an assistant professor in the Department of Historic Preservation at the University of Kentucky and is an affiliate in the University's Center for Equality and Social Justice. Bergeron completed her doctoral work at Cornell in the Department of City and Regional Planning where her work focused on cultural resource protection, environmental justice, and land tenure issues impacting the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. She is also a member of the Florida and Maryland bars and has continued her work on civil rights and social justice as the chair of the American Bar Association's (ABA) Committee on Environmental Justice where she is currently working on creating ABA policy on environmental justice and disaster response. She is also currently engaged in research on the concept of distributional disparities in both environmental and cultural resource protection as reflected in the creation of conservation refuges in global parks and protected areas, the changing concepts of monuments and memorialization, the role of urban renewal in creating environmental justice communities, and the impacts of environmental deregulation on Appalachia.

Thomas J. Campanella

bald man wearing orange glasses a purple shirt and a red tieBorn and raised in Brooklyn, Thomas J. Campanella is a historian of city planning and the urban built environment. He teaches and writes about the culture-space nexus in a variety of contexts, seeking to explain the manifold agents, actors, and forces that have shaped urban landscapes around the world. Though primarily an Americanist, he has also studied and written about the extraordinary growth of Chinese cities in the post-Mao era. Campanella has received Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships and is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome and the James Marston Fitch Foundation. His books include The Concrete Dragon: China's Urban Revolution and What It Means for the World (2008); and Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm (2003), winner of the Spiro Kostof Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. He has held visiting appointments at Columbia, Harvard GSD, Nanjing University, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Campanella holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1999), an M.L.A. from Cornell (1991), and a B.S. from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (1986).

Jeffrey M. Chusid

balding man with a goateeJeffrey M. Chusid is an architect and planner with current research interests that include the fate of historic resources in areas of cultural exchange and conflict, the conservation of modernist architecture in India, historic cements, and sustainable development. His writings can be found in journals, museum catalogs, and several texts. Chusid has consulted on public policy, resource conservation, and urban design for diverse communities such as Shanghai, China; Sevastopol, Ukraine; Levuka, Fiji; and Bastrop, Texas. He has also consulted on building and landscape preservation for numerous museums including the Huntington and Hearst Castle. Chusid received his A.B. in environmental design and his M.Arch. from the University of California–Berkeley in 1978 and 1982.

Erika Doss

woman with short hair and green glasses against an orange backgroundErika Doss teaches in the Department of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Her books include Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism (1991), Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (1995), Looking at Life Magazine (editor, 2001), Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (2010), and American Art of the 20th-21st Centuries (2017). The recipient of several Fulbright awards, Doss has also held fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sandra E. Greene

woman with glasses and short hairSandra E. Greene is the Stephen '59 and Madeline '60 Anbinder Professor of African History at Cornell University. She is the author of more than 50 articles in various journals and edited collections, the coeditor of four different texts as well as a five-volume encyclopedia, and the author of four single-authored books. One of these texts, Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter (2002) examines the meanings and memories associated with sites of spiritual significance in southeastern Ghana as they shifted and changed during the colonial period. She has served as chair of Cornell's History Department, president of the African Studies Association, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science.

Jennifer Minner

headshot of a woman with blond hair and glassesJennifer Minner's teaching and research explore tensions and areas of opportunity between land-use planning, historic preservation, sustainability, and community development. She is focused on methods of care, conservation, and sustainable adaptation of the built environment. Additionally, her research emphasizes analytical and participatory mapping; equity, reinvestment dynamics, and public space; and creative and critical approaches to technology.

Minner's experience includes planning, research, and community mapping projects related to land use and sustainability, historic preservation, community and economic development, and institutional research. She has been a principal investigator, project director, coprincipal investigator, and project manager on an array of research projects sponsored by government agencies and nonprofits including the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Historical Commission, and City of Austin. She served as chair and heritage commissioner on the Olympia Heritage Commission and has served on the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission. She is a past president and a founding board member of the MidTexMod chapter of Docomomo U.S., a nonprofit dedicated to documentation and conservation of the Modern Movement in Central Texas.

Minner's education background includes a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Washington, an M.U.R.P. from Portland State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.

Patricia C. Phillips

woman with brown hair wearing a grey blazerPatricia C. Phillips is a writer and curator who focuses on public art, civic space, landscape, the environment, and the intersection of these areas. She is author of Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art (2016), Ursula von Rydingsvard: Working (2011), It is Difficult, a survey of the work of Alfredo Jaar (1998), and editor of City Speculations (1996). From 2002–07, she was editor-in-chief of Art Journal, a peer-reviewed quarterly on modern and contemporary art published by the College Art Association.

Curatorial projects include Disney Animators and Animation (Whitney Museum of Art, 1981), The POP Project (Institute for Contemporary Art/P.S. 1, 1988), Making Sense: Five Installations on Sensation (Katonah Museum of Art, 1996), and City Speculations (Queens Museum, 1995–96). She was cocurator (with Larissa Harris of the Queens Museum) of Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art (Queens Museum, 2016–17).

She has held academic/administrative appointments at Parsons School of Design/New School for Social Research; the State University of New York at New Paltz; Cornell University; and RISD. She currently is chief academic officer at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia.

Recent work includes the lead essay for habitus: ann hamilton (2017) and editor of the two-volume Public Art: Critical and Primary Sources: 1960-2017 (2020).

J. Meejin Yoon

headshot of a woman with black hair wearing a black shirt and jacketJ. Meejin Yoon is a professor and head of the Department of Architecture at MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, and the incoming Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell. An architect, designer, and educator, Yoon joined the MIT faculty as assistant professor in 2001 and became department head in 2014. She is a founding principal, with Eric Höweler, of Höweler + Yoon Architecture, a multidisciplinary architecture and design studio that has garnered international recognition for a wide range of built work. Yoon's designs have embraced technologies at multiple scales, from interactive wearables and landscapes to robotic fabrication of stone structures. Yoon designed the Sean Collier Memorial at MIT to honor MIT police officer Sean Collier, killed in the line of duty, and the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia. Other current projects include the future MIT Museum in Kendall Square, planned to open in 2020, and a 20-story multifamily residential tower in downtown Boston.

Yoon's research, teaching, and design work has been widely recognized for innovation and interdisciplinary reach, with honors including the 2016 ACADIA Teaching Award, the 2015 New Generation Design Leadership Award from Architectural Record, the Audi Urban Futures Award in 2012, the United States Artist Award in Architecture and Design in 2008, Architectural Record's Design Vanguard Award in 2007, the Architecture League's Emerging Voices Award in 2007, and the Rome Prize in Design in 2005.

Mel Ziegler

A man with unruly hair wearing a brown checked shirt and black jacketZiegler is widely known for his collaborative work with his late partner, Kate Ericson. Beginning in the early 1980s, Ericson Ziegler pioneered the emergence of socially engaged practice and community engagement as vital forms of contemporary art. In the broadest sense, Ziegler's work asserts the value of rural identities and aesthetics and locates authentic spaces within the increasingly fragmented American experience. For Ziegler, the American landscape is a place of deep distress and profound optimism, yet his work finds new possibilities through monumentalizing and honoring the everyday. America Starts Here, the Ericson Ziegler retrospective, was co-organized by the Tang Teaching Museum and List Visual Arts Center at MIT and toured the country. Ziegler has presented solo exhibitions at venues including Secession, Vienna; Artpace, San Antonio; and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. Ericson Ziegler's work is held in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the University of California–Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others. Ziegler is a professor of art and social engagement at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He is the founder and executive director of the Sandhills Institute in Rushville, Nebraska, which is a catalyst for developing new models of artistic citizenship in America's heartland. Ziegler is represented by Galerie Perrotin.