Interactive History

Irish Hunger Memorial (


Located in New York, the Irish Migration Memorial.

Monuments dedicated to migrant groups are evolving into more visitor friendly pieces. By that I am saying that Monuments are including more ways for visitors to get involved with the work and feel connected to the piece. This shift is the result of a new age that recognizes the popularity shift between monuments that allow interaction and monuments that serve the sole purpose of being visually pleasing. Monuments dedicated to a large group of people are more vague and interactive when compared to memorials dedicated to a single person. Through my research I found that monuments dedicated to a single immigrant individual tended to be less interactive compared to one dedicated to a group of immigrants. Interactive memorials are the way to leave a lasting impact on those who visit while also engaging them in a learning experience.


Irish Hunger memorial

The Irish Hunger memorial is an accumulation of rolling hills, grass and stones that allow for visitors to interact and walk through the memorial. The memorial includes “gorse, buttercup, foxglove, blackthorn, clover, and nearly sixty other” native species of Ireland grasses (Casey 781). By involving such authentic accessories to the memorial, Brian Tolle, the artist, was adding an inviting aspect. Guests would be inclined to feel and smell the grass prompting for full sensory involvement. According to Casey Marion the memorial can be best described as being demanding for its presence to be known. They wrote, “Situated in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City, the form and function of the Irish Hunger Memorial are unexpected: not a park per se yet a green oasis amid the skyscraper canyons of the financial district, so jarring that you are forced to pause, to ponder your sudden intake of breath”.(Casey 782). The memorial engages your eyes, ears, and nose while also being informative on the Irish immigrant story. These qualities when combined open the door for conversation and learning. This type of involvement is what makes memorials stand out and create a lasting impact on their visitors. The memorial encompasses the feeling of being in Ireland and brings it to New York, where majority of the immigrant groups migrated to during the famine. When compared to other memorials of other immigrant groups the Irish memorial just stood way above the rest.


Statue of Liberty

One monument that literally stands above the rest is the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of liberty attracts people from all walks of life to adore and climb the magnificent statue. The way the statue encourages the visitors to interact and climb the steps makes it an inviting monument compared to others. Historical conscious is the way we think about the past, and the welcoming environment created by the statue opens the door for engagement and promotes historical consciousness. Funkenstein describes the source of historical consciousness as being an organized form of collective memory. His exact words were, “Western historical consciousness doesn't contradict collective memory, but rather is a developed and organized form of it” (5 Funkenstein, "Collective Memory," 19.). Essentially confirming that how the crowd remembers these monuments is essential to how they will view history and the immigrants these memorials represent. The way in which this manifests in monuments can be seen in how we imagine a single individual differently than a group. We remember individuals as in the past, already long dead. While we see groups as in the present, still changing. This concept can be seen and proven through the architectural design of monuments dedicated to large immigration groups versus those dedicated to single individuals. When memorials are bland and not interactive they do not leave lasting impressions and lack the visual effects necessary to captivate the target audience’s attention. This is seen in memorials typically dedicated to individuals like the memorial for Byron Kilbourn.


Byron Kilbourn

When looking at the memorial dedicated to Byron Kilbourn it is apparent that not much style is incorporated in the memorial. This lack of individualism or eye catching detail takes away from the purpose of the memorial. The purpose of these memorial is to inform the viewer of the migrant group- or individual in this case and their story. Memorials such as the Kilbourn memorial lack an interactive feature that engages with the audience and begs their attention. That feature is also what makes memorials attractive to the eye and interesting. Some key differences between the Kilbour memorial and The Statue of Liberty for example is the size for starters. Another key difference in the two is how the Kilbour memorial contains more reading than the other two memorials. The goal of this memorial was to quickly inform the audience through words and not experience. This method of teaching is not what Crane would classify as an ideal way to develop a historical consciousness. The Kilbourn memorial does not engage interaction with the audience because the story of Byron Kilbourn is short and concise just like the memorial whereas the story about the Irish immigrants and all immigrants, as told through the Statue of Liberty, is ever going and complex because it encompasses many families and individuals. What this statue lacks in artistic allure it makes up for in lengthy passages.


Casey, Marion R. “The Irish Hunger Memorial.” Journal of American History, vol. 98, no. 3, Dec. 2011, pp. 779–782. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/jahist/jar508.

Susan A. Crane; Writing the Individual Back into Collective Memory, The American Historical Review, Volume 102, Issue 5, 1 December 1997, Pages 1372–1385,