1.4 Symbolism in monuments
Provided by UNC Libraries / Documenting the American South.
In this lesson, students will review what a symbol is and then think critically about how objects or animals in North Carolina’s monuments communicate something about the person represented. Students will choose an object or an animal to include in a monument of themselves and describe why they made that choice.
- explain what a symbol is.
- identify and describe how symbols are used in North Carolina’s monuments.
- explain how objects and animals are used to communicate something about the person represented.
Two 45-minute classes
- Computer connected to a multimedia projector
- Computers for each student
- Access to the Commemorative Landscapes collection
- Explain to your students that you are going to do a word association game with them. Explain that you will show them a picture of an object or animal, and they will need to write down the first word that comes to their mind. For example, display a picture of a rose and explain how the first word that might come to their mind could be “love.” Display another picture of a dove and explain how the word “bird” or “peace” might come to their mind.
- Show them a series of images of objects and animals, and allow them time to write down their word associations. After students have finished, ask them to share some of their word associations. Record their responses on the board.
- Encourage your students to notice that objects and animals often symbolize, or draw certain associations with, larger ideas or values. For example, a dove often symbolizes the greater idea of peace. Go through the student responses and identify larger concepts that the object or animal could symbolize and what is merely a descriptor.
- Explain that monuments often use or incorporate objects or animals to communicate certain ideas or values about the event or person being depicted. Share that they are going to look at several monuments that incorporate objects or animals to communicate characteristics about the person being portrayed.
- If the class has looked at the Nathanael Greene Monument, use that monument as an example. Using the projector, display the monument and ask students:
- Knowing what we know about Nathanael Greene, why do you think the artists chose to put him on a horse?
- What could a horse symbolize?
- What could it mean that he is sitting on top of the horse as opposed to standing beside the horse?
- Encourage students to make some hypotheses about the use of animals in monuments.
- Look at the following monuments and encourage students to think about how the objects in the monuments communicate something about the person being represented.
- Time permitting, allow students to explore the Commemorative Landscapes collection to find other examples of monuments that include objects or animals. As students examine the objects in these monuments, ask students to think about why that particular object might have been included in the monument.
- At the end of class, allow students to share what they found, and encourage students to make some hypotheses about the role of symbols in monuments.
- Ask students to draw an object or animal that they would include in monument of themselves. On the back, ask students to explain their choice by highlighting what this object or animal communicates about them.
- Evaluate student writing against the information provided through class activities.
- Gauge student participation in class discussions.
- Next: Make your own monument