When Past Meets Present

What happens when the past meets the present? One of the most important jobs of historians is to conduct research and present that research to colleagues and the public in an engaging way.  Another critical job of historians is to examine how the past impacts the present.  This project is designed to encourage you to do both.  This assignment asks you to contextualize a historical monument, museum exhibit, artistic piece, literary work, or invented tradition. Each student will write a 5-6 page (Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, double-spaced) review of their respective site or monument and critique its cultural value as well as its representation of history and memory.  Consider the following questions when writing your essay: Why was the monument originally created? Can you say more about the historical context and background of when and why the monument was created? Who benefits from the monument? Who resists or disproves the monument? How has the monument been used over time to express grief or joy, dissent or consent, power or subordination, and other values? How have they been designed to include, exclude, identify, politicize, unify or divide? How do these symbols help us as a nation contextualize our values as we strive for a “more perfect union?”  In your opinion, do they help or hurt in this regard? Why? Should the monument be destroyed, reinterpreted, or replicated? Why or why not? You will need to utilize and include 4 sources related to your topic. These sources can comprise of the following:1) American Yawp (and primary sources contained within)2) Academic journal articles and texts found using the F.I.U. Library’s database.3) Online newspaper articles and/or blogs related to your specific monument.4) Online newspaper articles, blogs, or academic articles related to the concept of historical memory in general.*Tips:You may want to revisit and review course materials on Historical Memory from week 2 (Dr. Seeley’s lecture and the articles on Confederate monuments).There are many ways to organize this paper. Your essay must still contain a clear argument and thesis statement. I would highly suggest spending the first 1-2 pages discussing the background and historical context of your monument. When was it created? Revisit American Yawp and your notes to see what was happening at that point in U.S. History. Is it connected?The second half of your paper (2-3 pages), should analyze your monument in greater depth. You do not need to consider all of the questions above, they are simply there to help add to your discussion. There are many ways to think about monuments and historical memory. Your job is to make meaning of a monument and to analyze what it says about society today.**When citing sources, you can simply cite the author at the end of your sentence in parentheses, followed by the page number. For example:The New York Times claimed, “bla bla bla (New York Times, 232).” You must include a works cited page which lists your sources for this assignment. This can be in MLA or Chicago-style format, whichever you prefer and are more familiar with.

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