Commemoration and Public Memory
This project explores commemoration and public memory, the ways in which a collective group remembers its past. For the current iteration of this project, we focus on the physical manifestations of public memory. This project recognizes public memory and commemoration as intentional actions realized in physical forms that link the memory to the landscape.
European countries have taken many steps to realize forms of public memory on their landscapes, particularly in regards to commemorating World War II. Luxembourg is no different in its aspirations to preserve the history and memories of World War II. While there are memorials in almost every Luxembourgish town recognizing the Luxembourgers who either fought or died during the war, there is also a significant number of memorials and monuments that remember American soldiers who fought, lived, or died in the country during the war.
For our data, we decided to separate the physically constructed forms of public memory into ‘memorials,’ ‘museums,’ ‘markers,’ and ‘cemetery.’ In the future, we hope to add to this list to include such forms as streets, plazas, and commemorative events. Please see below for our definitions and descriptions.
Physical forms honoring or remembering the intersecting history of Americans and Luxembourgers during World War II. While some of these memorials include ‘monument’ in the title, we believed it best to keep the all-encompassing term ‘memorial’ since they all serve to “recognize and preserve memories” (Erika Doss, Memorial Mania). Many scholars often use “memorial” and “monument” interchangeably. Also considering that our primary audience is not scholars, but rather the general public, we felt having one general term of ‘memorials,’ under which ‘monuments’ may fall, would be most appropriate.
An institution dedicated to the preservation and education of the history of WWII in Luxembourg, especially recognizing American involvement.
Informational panels or physical objects that recognize the occurrence of specific WWII events at a particular location.
Currently, this refers to the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg.
Format and Tools
Our project is multifaceted as it provides viewers several ways to engage with this history and memory on a WordPress website. While the primary focus of this platform is an experimental digital map, it also includes a historical timeline, a blog, and additional resources.
The digital map allows audiences to dive into the stories of bravery, perseverance, loss, respect, and friendship embodied in forms of public memory across Luxembourg. The map serves two purposes: it provides general information about each form of public memory (type, town, creator, dedication year), and it offers a deeper look (photographs, descriptions/narratives, transcriptions) of a select few forms for this prototype. We created the digital map through ESRI ArcGIS Online’s application ‘Story Map Series.’ We embedded individual Story Map Series applications made for each type (memorials, markers, museums, and cemetery) into a larger overview map.
It is essential that the audience has an understanding of significant WWII events in Luxembourg before immersing themselves in the digital map. By providing a historical timeline, the audience will gain basic knowledge about WWII in Luxembourg and the war’s impact on the country. This historical timeline was created through the free online program KnightLab Timeline.
While working on the digital map, we quickly found that many of the stories and relationships surrounding the forms of public memory deserve more than a short summary. A blog provides us with an avenue to dive into stories as necessary. We also decided it is necessary to have an additional platform to go beyond the map, sharing stories from the past and present about individuals, communities, and organizations that have all played (and continue to play) a part in remembering this friendship between Luxembourg and the United States.
It is essential for our audience to be able to continue their exploration into the history and stories represented in the platform. Therefore, the platform provides the resources used to create the content for the site as well as the descriptions for the individual forms of public memory.
For the Digital Map
In order to create a digital map, we collected quantitative data regarding forms of public memory across Luxembourg’s landscape. The first database we collected data from was American War Memorials Overseas, Inc., which provides the geographical location (latitude and longitude) of American-related memorials and markers. We verified the geographical data through Google Maps by locating the memorial via “street view.” We also sifted through the database of the organization Traces of War. While Traces of War did present each form of public memory on a map, the organization did not provide geographical data. This lack of data required us to compare the organization’s map to a Google Map and locate the memorial or marker using street view (if possible). Additionally, we located the museums and cemetery online and found their addresses on their respective websites. We must note that this dataset is incomplete since we were restricted to the few websites and resources available to us, and within these websites, we only included the forms of public memory for which we could identify geographical locations.
Here you can view/download the dataset:**
The qualitative data for the map includes the transcription of any text on the specific form as well as a description or longer narrative of the form. Since this work required more research, we chose to complete a sample size of 20 forms of public memory, with a few general descriptions to provide additional context. For each form, we identified the transcription from websites or images, and we provided translations of inscriptions in other languages if they were available. Next, we researched each individual form, writing a description of its meaning, location, and/or relevant history. While we have currently only completed the qualitative data for a select few forms, we hope to add more information to all of the forms in later iterations of this project.
Since we wanted our digital map to include pictures of each form of public memory, we determined it was essential to keep accurate records regarding the images we used. Some photographs were used from personal trips, while many of them came from specific organizations or Wikimedia Commons. By collecting data for each photograph, we can properly credit photographers and organizations, as well as provide easy access to the photographs found online. To incorporate the photographs into the digital map, individual powerpoints (Google Slides) were created for each form of public memory. These powerpoints were later embedded into the digital map.
Here you can view/download the dataset:**
**Some browsers will open the datasets in the web browser, while other browsers will download the datasets as csv files.