Profs and Pints DC presents: “Understanding D.C.’s War Memorials,” a guide to the backstories and deeper meanings of iconic sites on the National Mall, with Christopher Hamner, associate professor of history at George Mason University and author of Enduring Battle: American Soldiers in Three Wars, 1776-1945.
Most memorials offer a straightforward story about their subject. But there is another story, often even more fascinating, just beneath the surface—once you know how to look for it. Come to Profs and Pints at metrobar dc for a fascinating look at the stories that the memorials have hidden in plain sight. It's a talk that will turn you into a keen-eyed observer of memorials who will be able to look carefully at them and learn what events Americans want to remember and how they want to remember them, as well as what events Americans would just as soon forget.
The speaker, Professor Christopher Hamner, will introduce the idea of reading monuments as texts, teaching you how to look beyond their explicit message for meaning and significance in how they present their subjects. Focusing on four iconic war memorials on the National Mall-- the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial—he’ll explore the difference between history—facts about events in the past—and memory, the process by which individuals, institutions, and societies makes sense of those facts.
Dr. Hamner teaches courses on war and society, military history, and the writing of history, has been a visiting faculty member at the U.S. Army War College, and has received George Mason University’s award for teaching excellence. He'll leave you able to look differently at memorials and interpret some of their subtle and not-so-subtle details, a skill that will offer you insights into why the process of public commemoration has been so politically charged at different moments in American history. You'll get much more out of your trips to the National Mall, and when friends visit you’ll be a much better tour guide. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: The Korean War Memorial on the National Mall / U.S. National Archives via Picryl.com