Monuments controversy discussed by Pitt and Heinz History Center experts

Patricia E. Beeson, Andrew Masich, Laurence Glasco, Kirk Savage, Christel Temple and Deane Root


Monuments controversy discussed by Pitt and Heinz History Center experts

Author: Alex J. Taylor

Assistant Professor and Academic Curator, Department of History of Art and Architecture

On 20 November, scholars from the University of Pittsburgh and our museum partners contributed to a panel discussion titled American Memorials in the 21st Century: A Monumental Mess at Posvar Hall at the University of Pittsburgh. Building on controversies about confederate public monuments prompted by Charlottesville protests, and more local discussions concerning the future of the Stephen Foster Memorial, the wide-ranging discussion focused on the politics of monuments on the university campus, and the ethical challenges they can present. 

‘As long as there have been memorials, people have been tearing down memorials,’ observed Andy Masich from the Heinz History Center in his opening remarks. Kirk Savage from History of Art and Architecture agreed, but pointed out that monuments had been removed for a wide variety of reasons (both political and practical), and often involve their own forms historical erasure in the heroes they choose to celebrate. Other speakers directly addressed their varied understandings of the meaning of the Stephen Foster Memorial, and the politics of racial difference that its imagery engaged. Conclusions and audience comments explored the challenges of solving these problems, and discussed the policies and practicalities of reinterpretation and removal.

The discussion was hosted by Provost Patricia E. Beeson, and included contributions from Andrew Masich, CEO and President of the Heinz History Center, Kirk Savage, Dietrich Chair in the History of Art and Architecture, Laurence Glasco, Associate Professor in History, Christel Temple, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, and Deane Root, Professor, Chair and Director of the Center for American Music.

To read more about the response of History of Art and Architecture faculty and students to the Stephen Foster Memorial see Remembering or Erasing The Past? The HAA Department Responds to Stephen Foster Memorial

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