Build Your Memorial


Build Your Memorial



Now that you are an expert on your topic, your next task is to use that information to design and build a symbolic, public memorial to your person(s)/event. The five factors you must consider as you create this memorial are:




There are many different ways to memorialize people and many different types of memorials. Memorialization includes parks, statues, museums, flags, schools and even web pages.The type of memorial you select must be appropriate to the person(s)/event you are memorializing. It would not be appropriate to build a theme park to honor a tragic event, for example. Take a look at the gigantic memorial in progress to honor Sioux warrior Crazy Horse.


What do you think this Native American hero would say about the blasting away of his Sacred Black Hills to build this memorial? Why have some criticized this type of memorial as "too big, too boring and too BOMB-bastic!"? Was the choice appropriate?   




The location of your memorial is as imporant as what type of memorial you choose to build. The site must be meaningful in some way to the person(s)/group you are remembering. Read the information on the Civil Rights Memorial. Why do you think that Montgomery, Alabama was the chosen site? Where would some other appropriate places for this memorial be?

Other decisions about location might take into account exposing the memorial to the maximum number of people. Placing it in a large metropolitan area or a place where tourists naturally flock ensures that more people will view the memorial, but it also may diminish the sanctity of the viewing experience. 

This dilemma created controversy for the planners of our national World War II Memorial.  Many people were outraged that the structure obscured the famous view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.


Another difference of opinion arose about placing the New England Holocaust Memorial in the middle of a busy thoroughfare in Boston.


What were the pros and cons of choosing this location?



You will have to make a decision about the building materials you will use to construct your memorial. The type of memorial you are designing will help you narrow down your choices. If it is a statue, for example, will you use bronze, marble, granite or something else? If it is a park, will it have trees, flowers, a wildlife sanctuary or all three? Now, enter and take a walk around the Hiroshima Peace Park. How many different building materials can you find?

This area contains over 60 monuments all remembering the victims of the US bombing of Japan in World War II. Make a list of the different building materials used in the various memorials. Remember that stone is a very important building material in Japanese gardens.


Now read the current controversy over the building of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Whose side do you take in the debate over the use of a Chinese sculptor and Chinese granite?

The designer chose many of the building materials from a famous MLK, Jr. speech in which the civil rights leader promised,"With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope." Take a tour of this newest DC memorial at

For your own memorial model you obviously won't use granite or bronze. You also don't have to smash your piggy bank and spend your hard earned pennies on supplies. For inspiration on how to use things lying around the house as creative building materials, check out Joan Steiner's Look-Alikes books in your school library. You will be amazed at what can be built with a match stick, some stale crackers or a few crayons. Just think! You can clean the house and find free memorial supplies at the same time!! In short, there is no need to raid the local craft store to make your memorial look great.



Symbols are very important parts of any memorial. A symbol is something tangible that stands for an idea. Symbols may be images, numbers, colors and even building materials. To use symbolism in your memorial, you need to make a list of what your person(s)/event stood for and find some way to visualize each of these things. Read about the choice of symbols used in the Oklahoma City National Memorial.


The location of your memorial can be a symbol. It may stand for a place that was meaningful to the person(s)/event. Your building materials can also be symbolic. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved to sail and swim. Therefore, the building of his memorial in Washington, DC used pools and fountains of water as a major part of the structure.


 Take a walk around the FDR Memorial Park. What other symbols did the designer, Lawrence Halprin, use to represent this Great American? What did these symbols show about FDR?


Just as with almost any other aspect of a memorial, the choice of symbols can be controversial. A controversy arose over whether or not to use FDR's wheel chair in his memorial. What are some arguments for and against adding this image to his memorial? What does it symbolize about him?


Similarly, the New England Holocaust Memorial  triggered a passionate debate when its architect chose to etch numbers on the class panels of his structure to symbolize the tatoos worn by the prisoners of concentration camps. Why did this anger some viewers?

Now take a look at some famous memorials in the city which contains more than any other: Washington, DC. Notice the materials and symbols used in each of these memorials and monuments.


Washington, DC.




Words can also be an important addition to a memorial. The choice of words is a difficult but crucial decision. Every memorial has some words, explaining why the memorial was built. This is called a dedication. Check out two famous dedications to the Oklahoma City Memorial and the Korean Veterans' Memorial respectively:


"We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity"


"Our nation honors the sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met."  

Additionally, quotes from or about your person(s)/event can help us understand what was lost or what their lives stood for. Some memorials demand the use of words more than others because of the person(s)/event being memorialized. Can you think of some memorials where words would play an especially crucial role?


  2013 memorials are here!!!

(click below)


For a cool, musical twist on the Memorial Project, see John Chase's Learning from Lyrics site:



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