Memorials and Monuments – Project Proposal

In 2009, the alumni magazine editors at the University of the Pacific called for memories of what it was like to have R. P. M., a 1970 American drama by Stanley Kramer, filmed on campus.  While many wrote in with comments about the production, Victor Ornelas, who was then a regent but had been, as a student, active in athletics, MEChA, and student life, noted he was a football extra in the film but then redirected the question to 1969 as a year of protest.  “We marched on Burns Tower and held a demonstration to bring attention to the lack of diversity, particularly Latino and African American (although we called ourselves Chicanos and Blacks then), on campus and ‘encouraged’ the university to rectify the situation.”(1) The meaning of 1969 and the meaning of Burns Tower, a central campus structure and an icon of Pacific’s elite education in Stockton, had a different, layered meaning for Ornelas.  He sought to bring attention to multiple histories.

Burns Tower Postcard, Fritz Vibe Postcard Services, in Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library; and Student Protesting in Gilbertson, Philip N. Pacific on the Rise: The Story of California’s First University. University of the Pacific, 2016.

This digital public history project aims to help alumni and community members connect to the Stockton University of the Pacific campus by amplifying the diverse stories that connect alumni to the campus’s monuments and memorials. The University of the Pacific will commemorate 100 years in Stockton, California in 2024, and this presents a unique opportunity to reach alumni interested in campus history.  Familiar narratives of presidents and building construction will fuel fundraising efforts. Although those stories will heighten a sense of belonging for many alumni, students, faculty and staff, those who do not see their stories centered may feel alienated and erased. Historian David Glassberg reminds us, what publics seek most is “a sense of history, a perspective on the past at the core of who they are and the places they care about.”  Moreover, monuments and memorials, even in the form of names on awards and building, are a hidden curriculum; they reflect values and “communicate powerful, selective messages about who is historically important” and who matters not.(2) 

I plan to create a mobile website that includes a digital inventory of monuments and memorials on campus and tells the backstories and contested histories of campus spaces through a website. The project will begin with Burns Tower, Anderson Hall, and the Jacoby Center (and the Jacoby Center Citizen Leader on Campus award). Over time, I envision a participatory website where students, alumni, faculty, and staff can contribute their research over time.

I am inspired by the Histories of the National Mall (2014), which encourages tourists to learn beyond the “deliberately planned landscape with memorials, monuments” by “creat[ing] a website designed for hand-held devices, populated with surprising and compelling stories and primary sources that together build a textured historical context for the space.”(3) Like, my project will map important monuments and memorials on campus.  This semester, I will map three locations (likely using Google Maps Street View Virtual Tour) and collect primary sources in Omeka that reflect compelling stories and the campus’s historic diversity.  The stories will be told on a platform with a strong mobile capability that integrates maps, primary sources, and narrative. (I am currently investigating Digital Commons Exhibits in Bepress to see if it has the functionality I am seeking.  Other options include Omeka exhibits, ArcGIS Storymaps, WordPress, and Scalar.)  Lawn signs at the selected sites on the Stockton campus will have intriguing questions and QR codes that direct audiences to the website.

My primary audience is University of the Pacific alumni and students. Interviews with alumni who have graduated in the last fifteen years indicate that there is interest in this kind of project. They expressed interest in learning more about the spaces that had meaning to them when they were students.  These were not limited to monuments and memorials but included sorority houses, athletic facilities, and library cubbies. A monument and memorial project broadly defined can meet their desires.

Secondarily, there is growing interest in campus spaces and monuments as a lens for understanding political change. In 2020, Public Historian dedicated a special issue to unpack slavery in campus histories and Yale launched a working group on the university’s “historic involvement and associations with slavery and its aftermath.”  These projects address the erasure of enslaved black laborers and their experiences and the burdens that are still borne by faculty and students.(4)  My project seeks to contribute to a broader understanding of hidden curricula in campus histories and to bring about, along with our students, a better understanding of our educational institutions with the hope of making them more responsive to current diverse students and faculty.

1. Victor E. Ornelas quoted in Alumni Association of the University of the Pacific, “Pacific Review Winter 2009,” Pacific Review 19 (2009): 3.

2. David Glassberg, “A Sense of History,” The Public Historian 19, no. 2 (1997): 69–72; Derek H. Alderman, “The classroom as ‘toponymic workspace’: towards a critical pedagogy of campus place renaming,” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 44 (2019): 126.

3.  Sheila Brennan and Sharon Leon, “Building Histories of the National Mall: A Guide to Creating a Digital Public History Project” (Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media: October 2015).

4. The Public Historian 42, no. 4 (November 2020); Yale and Slavery Working Group, “Yale and Slavery Research Project” (2020), at

Working Bibliography

Alderman, Derek H.  “The classroom as ‘toponymic workspace’: towards a critical pedagogy of campus place renaming.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 44, no. 21 (2019): 124-141.

Brennan, Sheila and Sharon Leon. “Building Histories of the National Mall: A Guide to Creating a Digital Public History Project.” Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. October 2015.

Buggeln, Gretchen. “Campus Places and Placemaking: Tradition and Innovation in the Architecture of American Higher Education.” The Cresset 74, no. 4 (2011): 6-16.

Glassberg, David. “A Sense of History.” The Public Historian 19, no. 2 (1997): 69–72.

Green, Hilary . “The Burden of the University of Alabama’s Hallowed Grounds.” The Public Historian 42, no. 4 (November 2020): 28–40.

Harris, Leslie.  “Working to Transform Community at Emory.” The Public Historian 42, no. 4 (November 2020): 56-62.

Hayden, Dolores. The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History. MIT Press, 1997.

Lee, Chana Kai  “A Fraught Reckoning” -Hilary Green, “The Burden of the University of Alabama’s Hallowed Grounds.” The Public Historian 42, no. 4 (November 2020): 12-27.

López De León, María. “Ethics of Development: A Shared Sense of Place.”  How to Do Creative Placemaking. pp. 78-81. National Endowment for the Arts, 2016.

Miles, Tiya. “Campus Meets World: Introduction to Universities Studying Slavery Roundtable.” The Public Historian 42, no. 4 (November 2020): 9-11.

Project for Public Spaces. Placemaking: What if we build our cities around places? Projects for Public Spaces. 2018.

Thomas, Rhonda Robinson. “Meeting the Challenge of Honoring Clemson University’s Invisible Founders.” The Public Historian 42, no. 4 (November 2020): 41-55.

Wilder, Craig Steven. Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. Bloomsbury, 2013.

Yale and Slavery Working Group, “Yale and Slavery Research Project.” 2020.

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