Atkinson Forum November 9–10 to Examine American Monuments

Mount Rushmore against a blue sky

The Atkinson Forum in American Studies symposium will focus on issues that arise around monuments and public memorials. photo / istock

November 2, 2018

Historians, conservationists, architects, artists, and planners will discuss the cultural, historical, design, and planning issues that arise around the creation of public memorials at "Place, Memory, and the Public Monument." The two-day symposium will be held November 9–10 in Milstein Hall and is presented by the Department of City and Regional Planning (CRP) and the Atkinson Forum in American Studies at Cornell. The program is free and open to the public and features a series of presentations, panel and audience discussions, and an exhibition in the Bibliowicz Family Gallery by artist Mel Ziegler.

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.

Edward Ayers, University of Richmond president emeritus and board chair of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, will give the keynote lecture titled "Reckoning with Ourselves: Principles and Persuasion in Remembering the Civil War" on November 9 at 12:30 p.m. in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium.

A panel discussion will follow at 2:15 p.m. with Jeffrey Chusid, associate professor and chair of CRP, presenting "Place, Memory, and the Public Monument: L.A. to Mostar to Berlin;" Erika Doss, professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, on "Never Forget: Staking Claims and Bearing Witness in America's Contemporary Memorial Landscape;" and J. Meejin Yoon (B.Arch. '95), the incoming Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of Architecture, Art, and Planning, on "The Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at UVA," a project in which her firm, Höweler + Yoon Architecture, participated through extensive community engagement.

A reception for Mel Ziegler: 1000 Portraits, an exhibition that features 1,000 presidential portraits reproduced from Mount Rushmore souvenirs, will also be held on November 9 at 4:30 p.m. in the Bibliowicz Family Gallery. Mount Rushmore has long held a fascination for the artist due to "its scale, its absurdness, its iconic value, its reason for being, and simply its sheer physical attraction," said Ziegler, a sculptor. "Each souvenir I have collected represents an interpretation of each president's face. Many didn’t even bear any resemblance to the president depicted. It struck me that the souvenirs were, in essence, all people embedded in this monument; they were tributes to the proverbial everyman."

The reception will be followed by a conversation between Ziegler and Patricia C. Phillips, chief academic officer of Moore College of Art and Design and former chair of Cornell's department of art, at 5:30 p.m. in Milstein Auditorium. The exhibition will remain on display through November 15 and was cocurated for the Atkinson Forum by Chusid and associate professor of art Maria Park, director of AAP exhibitions and events.

The November 10 panel will begin at 10 a.m. in Milstein Hall and will feature discussion and audience response to the preceding presentations. Panelists include Michael Ashkin, associate professor and chair of art; Sandra Greene, the Stephen '59 and Madeline '60 Anbinder Professor of African History in the Department of History; and Jennifer Minner, assistant professor, CRP. The discussion will be moderated by Thomas J. Campanella, associate professor, CRP.

By Daniel Aloi, The Cornell Chronicle