Podcast: The Monumental Project
By Monuments Toolkit
By Monuments Toolkit
As the official companion podcast of the Monuments Toolkit program, we will be deep diving into the pieces of American history found across the nation and how the stories they carry impact the modern day American citizen. The goal of this podcast – and the program at large – is to address the question: how do we address monuments of oppression? What are our options for dealing with painful pieces of our past? How can we learn, heal, and move forward? The aim of the season is to answer these questions while providing listeners with a thought-provoking and engaging experience.
Welcome to The Monumental Project: How Historic Sites and Monuments of Yesterday Affect Us Today. As the official companion podcast of the Monuments Toolkit program, we will be diving deep into the pieces of American history found across the nation, and how the stories they carry impact the modern day American citizen. The goal of this podcast and the program at large, is to address the question “how do we address monuments of oppression?” What are our options for dealing with painful pieces of our past? How can we learn, heal, and move forward? By the end of this season we’ll have a better understanding.
If you’ve tuned into the show before, then you know that most of our conversations are centered around public art, history and racial justice. The combination of these three things are the essence of what makes this topic so interesting: how does one tackle the artistic, historic and cultural meaning behind a public structure in the best way possible? For the most part, these monuments are city wide issues that permeate the public discourse of a community. Of course, there are times like in 2020 when many eyes are on specific monuments like the Columbus statue in St. Paul and Monument Avenue in Richmond. But for the most part, these are local issues that, with enough public discourse and political backing, are resolved to some degree.
However, there are unique instances where an oppressive monument has so much artistic weight, so much history and so much cultural impact that the conversation around it goes beyond these three elements. What results is a structure that is essentially too big to fail, despite the outdated meaning of the monument itself. It’s hard to find examples like this in the United States, but there is one that stands out above the rest. With a size of over 17,000 square feet engraved in one of the biggest geological formations in the country, the Confederate Memorial Carving in Stone Mountain is a fascinating story to say the least.
Not only is it the biggest confederate monument in the country, it’s also a tourist attraction to anyone visiting Georgia. A rebrand of Stone Mountain Park in the 80s made what was originally a bland history-focused walk into a family friendly amusement park that just so happens to be centered around confederate soldiers. Almost everyone that lives in Georgia has been or knows someone who has made the trek up the mountain, and the sight of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson are clear as day. Many scholars, historians, and political organizations have advocated for change. However, changing Stone mountain and its accompanying engraving is nowhere near an easy task. To speak to this, we sat down with Sheffield Hale and Claire Bailey from the Atlanta History Center.
The Atlanta History Center, or AHC, is a history museum and research center located in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1926, the museum currently consists of nine permanent, and several temporary, exhibitions. They also have a variety of programs and initiatives aimed at connecting people to history and culture in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. One of these projects is the Confederate Monument Interpretation Guide, founded in 2016 with a focus on breaking down Lost Cause ideology. Sheffield Hale is the CEO of the AHC, and Claire Haley is the CEO and VP for Democracy Initiatives at the Atlanta History Center.
As a pioneer in the conversation around monuments of oppression, we were very excited to finally talk to them. Enjoy the show!