In Jeffrey Schnapps’ talk about developing the BZ ’18-’45 monument in Bolzano, Italy, Schnapps discusses the story of transforming an uncomfortable, yet important, story into one generations can learn from and embrace. Although Schnapps’ work occurred in a small town in northern Italy, his work provides insight into an ongoing issues across the world: How do we deal with our uncomfortable past? Schnapps, although without resistance, took an important representation of a town’s history that was once avoided and transformed it into something with significant purpose. This story is an important one to listen to. Across the world, there are aspects of every country’s past that are looked down upon, or even forgotten, and learning how to handle and display them properly is needed.
Responding in this manner, of preserving uncomfortable artifacts, can be revolutionary in itself, or foster subsequent movements for how we view our past. One such example is the fight over Civil War monuments and graves, namely on the side of the Confederacy. Despite the attack on these artifacts, many local historians gathered and strived, much like Schnapps, to restructure them in a manner that made them educational. Although this movement across the American south remained hidden from the media, a small, but important revolution, occurred and resulted in the preservation, and updating of, important artifacts.
These experiences teach us the importance of being uncomfortable, and learning from history. Schnapps is unique from other movements as he made his exhibit technologically advanced, interactive, and accessible to many. Historians, artists, architects, and more can learn from his work, and ideally apply it to many communities.