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. 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 Use – Peripheral Memories
 Erika Doss, Memorial mania: public feeling in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).