Off Track: Take Two

This is Take Two of memorials I’ve come across in the last few weeks that don’t strictly fit the ‘disaster memorial’ category.

Old North Memorial Garden

I came across the Old North Memorial Garden while on a walking tour in Boston. The Memorial Garden is dedicated to US soldiers  who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is in the North End, right next to the Old North Church, the Boston’s oldest standing church.

While war memorials are not the focus of my Fellowship (hence in the Off Track category), I wanted to capture this one for a few reasons. It was created by the nearby church, so it’s a good example of a memorial created by a discrete community, not driven by government.

The design is also a major departure from ‘traditional’ war memorials. One’s that I have seen anyway. Each of the dog tags hanging from the posts at the rear of the garden represent a soldier who died. They tinkle in the wind which adds to the visual of having one item that represents a person. Most memorials use names to represent people who have died. That this one doesn’t means that the sheer number of dog tags is powerful. Lists of names are also powerful but there is something about using an object, a physical thing, (a thing that all these people would have owned) that I thought was quite profound.

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Close up of the Old North Memorial Garden plaque.
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The dog tag installation surrounding the garden.

Boston Irish Famine Memorial

The Irish (and Italians) feature heavily in Boston’s history. And, of course, the city was home to the family of John F. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic President of the United States. So it was unsurprising to find a Famine Memorial in Boston. This one is  very different to my (as previously stated) most favourite memorial, New York’s Irish Hunger Memorial.

I have done a little reading about this one since seeing it. What I find most interesting about it is the difference in interpretation of the memorial from what the sculptor intended. I did three walking tours while in Boston, two (with two different guides) went past this memorial. Both guides explained that the statue in the first photo below, depicted people in Ireland experiencing the effects of the famine and the second was of people when they came to America, i.e. that they prospered upon arriving to America. As opposed to the intention of the sculptor to show the impact of the class divide in Ireland.

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Two main statues make up this Famine Memorial. This one, depicting a family as they may have appeared in Ireland, showing the effects of famine and poverty.
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In contrast, this statue shows healthy well fed people. The sculptor wanted to depict the divide of the class structure in Ireland at the time, where urban populations were less affected by the famine that rural, farming families.

These plaques tell the story of the Famine and the Boston Irish. I’m finding it interesting to see how different memorials choose to educate the viewer.

New England Holocaust Memorial

The New England Holocaust Memorial remembers the six million victims of the Holocaust. It was dedicated in 1993. Friends in New York told me to keep an eye out for this one, so I was pleased to be taken by on a walking tour. I went back to check it out a second time.

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There are six of these glass pillars that each have one million numbers etched into them. These numbers represent the six million victims of the Holocaust.

One of the key features of this memorial is the steam that billows up from the base of each of the glass pillars. The steam represents the use of gas chambers by the Nazi’s to murder millions of Jewish Europeans, and other minorities, during WWII. The steam is visible in the video below.

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Interior view of one of the columns.

2 Comments

  1. Nice one. the war memorial is interesting, it feels like an anti war memorial. I feel like official war memorials tend to legitimise war, like the war memorial or the Shrine of Remembrance. In neither of those do you really get to feel the horror of war and senseless death it brings. They don’t challenge to ask war, they just ask you to accept that the war has happened and we must honour and remember the dead. This war memorial seems to force you to ask you why because it is a personalised

    Liked by 1 person

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