Date of Award

4-23-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Robert P. Watson

Second Advisor

Katrina Carter-Tellison

Third Advisor

Richard B. Cohen

Abstract

Reverence for the dead is a defining human characteristic. Pyramids are no longer in style, but a variety of memorials mark the American landscape, commemorating lives lost in war, exploration, storms, and most recently, lives taken by acts of terrorism. The study of American memorials differs as widely as do the reasons for building memorials. The development of a conceptual model lends insight to the nature of memorials and informs future scholars who may want to investigate this very human phenomenon.

A literature review identified 10 constructs that appeared to be universal to memorials: visitors, memory and meaning, grieving, education, artifacts, names, architecture, costs, sense of place, and a website. These constructs were tested through analysis of 16 memorials that encompass wide temporal and geographic ranges, including the Alamo, Gettysburg, Little Bighorn Battlefield, Wounded Knee, Galveston 1900 Hurricane, USS Arizona, World War 11, United States Marine Corps/Iwo Jirna, Korean War, Martin Luther King, Jr., Vietnam, National Fallen Firefighters, Space Shuttle Challenger, Oklahoma City, September 11, and Virginia Tech. An analysis of these memorials, beginning with a literature-based case study and supported by interviews with memorial experts, allowed for the construct-based hypotheses to be accepted or rejected.

One of the constructs, cost was rejected, but the remaining constructs, with the possible addition of a memorial champion, the role of the media, social change, and an event or individual to be memorialized, resulted in a conceptual model to the study of memorials and inform those who might wish to develop a memorial.

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