"What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?"
This is the question that guides Monument Lab, and last week, alum Paul Farber '01, who leads Monument Lab, came to campus for an intensive CoLab.
(As a reminder, CoLab is CoLab is a new, twice-monthly flexible time for learning and experimenting in the Upper School.)
The CoLab opened with Paul setting the stage for the day's investigations at morning assembly, and then groups—lots of groups—met for on- and off-campus monument investigations.
Paul explained that Monument Lab is "really a product of many years of exploring what history looks like, and who gets to write history." Part of Monument Lab's work is looking for "the gaps in our public history."
In the course of his talk, he touched on the historical iconography of Philadelphia, and how hard it would be to imagine Philadelphia without it. (Consider: how many representations of Benjamin Franklin can you think of? There are a lot!) Paul noted that there are only a small handful of monuments in Philadelphia dedicated to women, and of those, most are not even from or related to Philadelphia, such as Joan of Arc or Mary Dyer (a Quaker martyr hanged in Boston). This year, with the dedication of a monument to Octavius Catto, Philadelphia gained its very first monument, on public ground, to an African-American person.
Paul stressed that "a monument is always a product of its time," and further, "symbols are associated with systems." Paul urged students to consider what symbols society chooses to elevate, and when the elevation occurs in a historical context, drawing on the example of monuments to Confederate leaders, and noting that most of the monuments that exist today were not erected after or during the Civil War, but rather, most were erected after Reconstruction during the rise of Jim Crow, and during the Civil Rights movement.
Paul asked students to consider monuments as "platforms to think and learn together." To do just that, Upper School students participated a diverse range of workshops; see the full list below.
- Create and Construct a Monument to the Living
- Unintended Monuments: What Main Hall Was, Is, and Could Be
- Talk Back with Paul Farber
- Odes: Monuments in Verse
- Data Tagging and Data Crunching with Monument Lab Database
- What If Our Monuments Could Speak
- Comparing War Memorials: The Role of the Artist
- Pocket Book
- Documenting A Civil War Monument in Germantown
- Re-imagining Market Square
- Photography Walk to Vernon Park
- Making Micro Films: My Monuments Versus Your Monuments
- Unconscious Monuments: A Germantown Walk
- Monuments to the Dead: Cemetery Sketching