Different people and scholars have different views on monuments. Some see it as a waste of space, especially in cities, where monuments and memorials are often devoted to the dead they provide less of a concrete service to the living. There’s also many different styles of monument, some grand and imposing like the Arc de Triomphe, and some much smaller. It is hard for me to parse out what makes one monument better than another, if there is such a metric. No matter what though, most modern monuments hold memories to stimulate a though or recollection in a way that seems permanent and unquestionable in scale, hardness and duration. That suggests to me that often the choice material would be stone. But even stone can be torn down or without maintenance be let back into the earth. At some point, will all monuments be forgotten, fade away, or turn into something unrecognizable? Probably so, but it can be a slow change. However, it is a much faster phenomenon for monuments on the “wrong side” of history.
When I think of a monument I think of something permanent that serves to provide a message through time. Being relatively young and alive now, I probably don’t have firsthand memories of what any given monument stands for. I also have my own unique background and so do others, so a monument may mean different things to different people—whether it stirs thoughts or stirs memory. However, overall, a monument will have an overarching message behind it that is collectively understood during a period of time. But Jeffrey Schanpp broached further interesting questions that I had never given much thought to: how does the meaning of a monument change over time, must a monument be permanent, and can a monument be reframed to become relevant again? My short answer to all three questions would now be: It’s complicated.
Schnapp and a team reimagined the Bolzano Victory Monument. He said the goal is to “extract a monument from the history of its genesis into a message of our time.” That’s an incredibly eloquent way of putting it, but also very descriptive. And often, he suggests, there is more value in critically reforming a monument to foster new engagement than to just destroy it and erase its memories from out time. I think I agree with him in most cases. If you had a monument to a truly horrible message then maybe not, but with something that can effectively educate us about the past and not let us forget something that still has relevance now and in the future, it is clearly worthwhile. However, I do understand that people from different backgrounds may have very negative connotations towards a monument or what it stands for, while other will be less affected and feel more objective having different experiences. Reframing a monument in an effective and respectful way can overcome some of this, as is the case with the Bolzano Victory Monument.