The Memorial

American art historian Erika Doss identifies a pervasive obsession – memorial mania – in the United States. Doss defines the continuous construction of memorials as a fascination with “issues of memory and history and an urgent desire to express and claim those issues in visibly public contexts” and categorizes each memorial within five broad categories:  fear, shame, gratitude, anger, and grief.[1] Providence’s memorial to Roger Williams, first constructed in the 1930s and expanded in the 1960s demonstrates a type of gratitude memorial, Williams embodying a city and state-supported narrative of tolerance pervasive in Providence and Rhode Island.

Veri Waterman Associates, View of RWNM toward State Capitol, undated. Veri Waterman Associates.

The memorial today sits on a 4.5 acre plot at the seam between Providence’s Downcity and College Hill neighborhoods. The space includes a visitor center within a historically preserved eighteenth century house, a courtyard, picnic tables, public sculpture, informational plaques, and a wide, grassy lawn surrounded by a ring of evergreens (image above).


In this section:

Designing the Memorial – Contemporary UsePeripheral Memories

[1] Erika Doss, Memorial mania: public feeling in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

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