Public history


The Fall of Monuments: a Public History Monuments have, for a few years now, been hitting the headlines all over the world. Public debates do not focus so much on the erection of new monuments as they do on acts of vandalism, removal, and destruction. If destructions of monuments are not new – for example during the French Revolution – their multiple examples all around the world (United States, England, Australia, Spain, Argentina, South Africa for instance) raise questions about their origins, meanings, and consequences. In my presentation, I propose to understand those synchronous destructions and removals through the angle of public history. Developed as a process to include publics into its production, interpretation, and communication, public history helps to better understand the issues at stake in destroying monuments. In the words of Ludmilla Jordanova, the past is more than ever considered as a public property subject to many different interpretations. Remembering and interpreting the past has become more democratic, more participatory, more diverse but has also shacked power relations. New participatory practices have impacted how we memorialize and interpret the past at official levels. Questions such as who owns the past and who can decide what historical events, actors can be remembered through monuments are being reconsidered. In this reinvention of our relations to monuments – and indirectly to the past – I propose to reconsider the role of historians. I argue that more than simply interpreting the past, historians can help communities deciding what to do with (unwanted) monuments

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