Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Meaning Of The 'Names' And 'Faces': A National Mall Without Memory And Understanding

This is a repost of something that I assembled on Saturday in recognition of Memorial Day. It disappeared upon publishing.


"This Memorial Day weekend, visitors to Washington will honor those who bravely sacrificed their lives in serving our country. They will pay their respects around the pool of the World War II Memorial and the Wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In visiting these stony precincts, however, they will learn little about the wars commemorated by all the inscriptions and names. Apart from a few small, specialized institutions, the city offers no place to discover more about these world-changing events.

Unlike London, where the Imperial War Museum is a popular tourist spot, or Ottawa, home to the Canadian War Museum, Washington is without a national museum of military history. Surprisingly, the capital lacks a central place to honor our wars, from the American Revolution to the Iraq War, despite their enormous influence on our country.

A national museum could portray those conflicts within a larger historical framework rather than through the narrow perspective of a single military branch or veterans group. It could offer common ground for understanding the causes and consequences of wartime actions through the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike.

Yet, efforts to teach the public about recent wars resemble other recent memorial- and museum building on the Mall, catering to specific constituencies without regard to the bigger picture. New museums now being developed by the Army and Marine Corps, for example, tell only part of the story.

Even more selective is the proposed underground visitors center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on a site next to the Lincoln Memorial. The proposed 25,000-square-foot subterranean structure, approved by Congress in 2003, is meant to be more a museum than a place to buy postcards. It would mostly house space for exhibits aimed at explaining the history of the Vietnam War and the meaning of the memorial's names." ...

Deborah K. Dietsch "Mall sprawl poses issue" Washington Times, May 27, 2006



With thanks to Judy Feldman and The National Coalition To Save Our Mall.



"Faces of the Fallen" Exhibition, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C., 2005.

Photo credit: "Faces of the Fallen" via San Diego Union-Tribune. With thanks.



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