‘Monuments and Memory’ by Martha Norkunas (2002)

Martha Norkunas is a scholar, a folklorist, who was the director of cultural affairs at the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission in the early 1990s. Her book “Monuments and Memory: History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts” was published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in 2002. In it she catalogues the various forms of remembrance, public remembrance, in the city. Some of the chapters are “Inside the Memory of Class and Ethnicity” and “Relocating the Memory of the Dead.” Following is an excerpt from the Introduction.—PM


“In 1996 a series of small granite sculptures, a work of public art funded by the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, was dedicated to those Yankee women who formed a part of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association in 1840. Fifty yards away a “Winged Victory” statue rises up before the obelisk dedicated to the first two Lowell soldiers to die in the Civil War. Behind that is the city hall, with monuments to Lowell’s Franco Americans and Lowell’s Polish Americans prominently placed on the front lawn. Still within sight is Cardinal O’Connell Parkway with a large pedestal and bust of the cardinal, and monuments to the Irish and Greek communities of Lowell defining opposite ends of the small greenway. Nearly every five blocks there is a monument with the names of Lowell’s ethnic communities, the war dead, politicians and priests, civil servants, coaches, athletes, volunteers, donors, children, or women.

“Bearing witness to the multiple collective memories of this old industrial city, the creation of these monuments describes ideas aboutthe rise of American industrialism, the good citizen, and the heroic death. . . . ”