Guide for Placing Monuments in Context

Step 1: Research

Learn about monuments, why and how they were erected, and the role they have played in communities (most of all, your own). The “Research: Books and Latest News” page features current literature and discussion surrounding the topic. As you conduct research, you’ll better understand what effect monuments have had on communities over time. You’ll learn the intricacies of the current debate on monuments and how others have sparked conversations in their communities.

When discussing monuments in your community, it is essential that you uncover the history of the monument in question. Knowledge about who erected the monument, why it was erected, and its role and symbolism in the broader historical context of the time of its erection is crucial to fostering productive dialogue about the monument. Most importantly, you will want to research who is the present legal owner of both the monument and the land upon which it is located. 

The Confederate Monument Interpretation Template is a great place to start when conducting this research.

Your local libraries, universities, or historical societies can be an invaluable resource for information on Confederate monuments, including photographs. In some cases you may be able to locate research already compiled on monuments in your city.  You may also want to search historical newspaper collections, many of which are now on-line.

Step 2: Reach Out

Look into who controls, or is responsible for maintaining, monuments in your city.

Though authority over monuments can vary from town to town, here are some places, in general, worth checking that can get a conversation going:

City or County Council

Contact your city or county council office, or more specifically, the council member who represents the district in which the monument you’re interested in resides. They should be able to tell you whether the monument has been a topic in your community or they may be able to steer you toward the appropriate office.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and recreation departments may oversee public spaces in a local community. If a monument is on park grounds, parks department approval may be necessary for any additions or changes to occur to those grounds.

State Preservation Officers

The National Register of Historic Places Program of the National Park Service has put together a useful list of state preservation officers. Learn more about that resource.

Your state preservation officers may be able to point you in the right direction, especially for monuments that are placed on state-owned property.

Additionally, identify any state or local ordinances that govern what actions can be taken in regards to Confederate monuments, or monuments in general. Doing so will better inform you on the options available to you within current laws.

Step 3: Formulate a Plan of Action for Your Community's Monument

At this point, the historical information necessary to have a productive community discussion has been compiled. You’ve gathered information about the Civil War’s legacy – through the context of the Lost Cause narrative, monuments, Jim Crow Laws, and the Civil Rights Movement – and researched how your community’s monument fits into this broader historical perspective.

In order to move forward, the community must discover the most effective way to foster public dialogue about the monument and its historical context.  If the outcome of this dialogue is the decision to contextualize the monument, that solution can be implemented in multiple ways: historical markers, additional plaques, smartphone applications, and webpages, to name a few.

 

We hope if you find a new solution or approach you’ll share it with us on our “Comments and Suggestions” page so others can learn from the experience.

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