Preserving Memory: A Study of Monuments and Memorials
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After viewing our curriculum units, please take a few minutes to help us understand how the units, which were created by public school teachers, may be useful to others.
The Washington Monument is an interesting work to analyze because most students already know its image. The most difficult task will be for students to determine what is the true function of the Washington Monument.
Step One: observation
A tall thin obelisk placed on a raised knoll on the mall facing both the nation’s Capital and the White House.—The monument itself is built from two different color stones indicating the point where the construction stopped due to lack of funds.—The monument stands as a singular structure providing a focus for the city.—The obelisk is an ancient four sided vertical structure that comes to a point and is often used as a burial marker.—It both reaches to the heavens while indicating a north, south, east and west axis.
Step Two: drawings
Drawings of the monument to scale, and map showing the placement of the monument in relation to the Capital and the other memorials. Compare this with the grounds of Versailles.
Step Three: content
A historical marker for our first president of the United States of America.
Step Four: symbolism
The Washington Monument has successfully appropriated the obelisk as its own symbol.—When Americans see another obelisk, the Washington Monument is referenced.—The placement of the monument supports our romantic memory of President Washington as the sole leader in our country’s fight for independence and leading our government through its’ first presidency.
Step Five: context-audience
The Washington Monument is not unlike the World Trade Center, or the Statue of Liberty it is a tourist attraction; a structure that people enter to go to the top for a view of the city.—The monument is a visual focal point. A beacon to help individuals navigate throughout the city.—Students should consider the importance of having national symbols. Do these symbols define our cultural identity? Would being an American mean the same thing if the Washington Monuments were never finished? The construction of the Washington Monument resumed after a lack of funds because our forefathers believed that the existence of cultural markers were essential.