Memories Through The Generations

              Most people assume that memorials are unchanging pieces of work that cause the people they are intended for to keep a firm grip on the past, through the generations. However, these monuments show us that they have the ability to mean something different to people based on where they live, how they view the event, and how far removed the viewer is from the event. In this digital exhibit I will argue that these memorials can foster reconciliation, and acknowledgement of adversity through numerous generations and across many borders. Although they may mean something different at varying points in time, they still have meaning.  

              A memorial can serve many purposes. Its main purpose is that of linking the past to the present so that present and future generations don’t forget the sacrifices of those who came before us. They are meant to stand the test of time and serve as a physical location for our memories and the memories of our ancestors. The other purposes of a memorial are that of its ability to show meaning, symbolism, emotions, and a narrative of the past. Within these abilities lies the intention of the artist and what he or she hoped to portray and what memories he or she hoped would carry on, as well as the way in which the viewer experiences it. 


           The National Famine monument near Murrisk Ireland is a stark and shocking reminder of the horrors that the Irish endured when faced with the choice of remaining in Ireland and starving to death or embarking on a perilous voyage to a different country with only slightly better chances at survival. The monument depicts skeletal figures hanging in the masts of the ship to remind viewers that thousands of people died on those ships, which have been dubbed “coffin ships”. This memorial serves as a reminder that the people of Ireland were left to starve and endure horrendous conditions. In this monument it could be said that the purpose is to hold on to those difficult memories, there is no desire evidenced here to reconcile or gloss over the events. The location is important with this memorial, because it is in Ireland, there are certainly some who have strong feelings about the event even though it was 175 years ago. Memory has certainly not faded as quickly for those still living near this memorial. 

National Famine Ship Memorial



Irish Memorial






             The Irish Memorial sculpted by Glenna Goodacre is an interactive piece that really draws the viewer into the narrative.  Designed to show a timeline of the struggle of the Irish people tending to crops that can’t sustain them, to the passage across the ocean, and the eventual landing on United States soil where they are welcomed with open arms. This memorial shows a progression from horrific conditions and fear, to one of welcoming, hope, and friendship. One might not need to be an Irish descendent to appreciate the narrative being told by this piece. It doesn’t need shock value, and the details and expressions on the faces of the sculptures might provide the opportunity to look into the past from a more optimistic view. For those who are descendants, perhaps this is a reminder of the better life that they were able to find.

kindred spirits sculpture.jpg

              The Kindred Spirits Memorial is one that could possibly withstand many generations and continue to hold meaning. The memorial, which was built by Alex Pentek, is a dedication to the Choctaw Nation and it's generosity towards the Irish people during the Great Famine. After having suffered through the Trail of Tears, the Choctaw Nation felt a kinship to the Irish and their struggles, and gave a generous sum of money to the Irish people. The memorial is in the shape of a circle to represent a bowl of food. The striking beauty of this piece and the fact that it was built from a place of gratefulness and appreciation could give this memorial longevity in the eyes of the younger generations. 

               Some memorials cause a strong reaction in the viewer, while others that don’t have that same effect can seem to fade away and lose significance. Some have shock value that might keep them relevant, while others are more interactive and become popular visiting spaces for families. Perhaps a memorial gives a person who is grieving, or has the memory of grief passed down from their ancestors, a chance to recognize that emotion and really feel it, and then walk away from it. Essentially laying it down and leaving it in the past, knowing that it’s there to pick up again at a later time if the viewer desires by simply returning to the same memorial. In this way a memorial holds on to the memories of many generations who might view it differently than their ancestors did, while keeping the event relevant throughout the years.