Every landscape contains monuments, both intentional and unintentional—records of human activities and societal values. Landscape is history: landscape is memory.

The 2020 protests about memorial statues in Philadelphia and across the country exposed this additional truth: Arguments about the past are ideas about the future.

Over fall semester 2021, a group of Penn juniors and seniors studied histories and legacies of the American memorial landscape. Despite the strain of Covid times, they formed a temporary community, and did compelling work as part of HIST 164, “American Monuments: Designs for the Future.”

As taught by Jared Farmer (with assistance from Molly Leech), this course benefited from affiliation with the Paideia Program, a hub for civic dialogue in undergrad education at Penn. The goal of the course was the integration of the civic and the academic, town and gown, in the here and now, which is also the here and then.

In their research, students focused on Philadelphia landscapes—past, present, and potential—including Penn’s own campus. After graduating, these students will join a generation of citizens who must make something new of old monuments, and renovate the meaning of monument-making.

To peruse their projects—a mixture of reports, videos, podcasts, and StoryMaps—visit this website’s three sections.