(Photo credit: Iwo Jima Memorial, by Wally Gobetz, at Flickr Creative Commons)
I’m fascinated by the monuments and memorials we put up or cordon off to help us make sense of what went before us. I’ve also been a seasonal park ranger at a U.S. historical park for the past five seasons, so I’ve been thinking about this more and more as I do a job that connects ordinary folks to some of America’s greatest national treasures.
Every country has memorials, and many have them in abundance–not least the United States. In recent years the National Park Service has been a major player in the creation and maintenance of monuments celebrating everything from military victories to celebrated national poets, and I will focus much attention on that agency. The experience of the national parks in the United States also reminds us that monuments can be imagined and created just as effectively out of the natural landscape.
Still, the Park Service is far from the only player in this endeavor, and I won’t ignore the proliferation of memorials associated with other public and private bodies. I’ll also focus attention on other countries, including my native Scotland and the UK and Europe more generally. Memorials can tell us a huge amount about the societies and cultures that create them, and I’d like to offer some comparative insight into that process. So that’s why I’m doing this. Now I’ll just have to see if I can make a go of it.