Monuments and Memory-Making: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1981-82

Game in Development | Available to Download

When the Vietnam War drew to a close, the process of memorializing the conflict resulted in a tug-of-war over the national narrative of the 20+ year struggle. In the wake of devastating loss and in the midst of the continuing and ever-evolving Cold War, conflicting voices emerged in the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. as various interest groups vied for control over how the United States would memorialize the war. Physical spaces like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial offer compelling ways of measuring collective memory. The way we interpret the past through these concrete structures provides insights into how the creators of those spaces constructed the past, how they intended for audiences to do the same, and how those meanings can be challenged. Monuments and Memory-Making will bring students directly into that conflict. Students will take part in the conversations and controversies that emerged as the nation grappled with how best to memorialize what was at the time the longest conflict in US history. As they engage in the very process of memory-making, they will work to reconcile the varied and often conflicting voices that emerged after the fall of Saigon. How do we create a national memory of the past? How do we move on from a lost war? How do we remember the dead, while honoring the living? How do we reunite a fractured nation? Who speaks to that nation, and who speaks for it? How does public opinion and public consciousness shape our understanding of the past? Whose voices matter?

About the Authors:

Rebecca Livingstone is an Associate Professor of History at Simpson College, Indianola, IA.  She is broadly trained in British and European history with a research focus on gender  and crime in seventeenth-century English popular print media.  As part of her teaching, she has developed a broad interest in social memory and how societies construct their idea and understanding of the past, particularly for public consumption in museums, monuments and memorials.  She has taught several courses on European remembrance of the First and Second World Wars.  Currently, she is lead author on Peacemaking, 1919: The Paris Peace Conference, a Reacting to the Past game in development.  She has served on the Board of the RTTP Game Development Conference for the last six years.

Kelly McFall teaches at Newman University, where he is Associate Professor of History, Chair of the Division of Humanities and Director of the Honors Program.  He is broadly interested in the history of conflict and human rights.  He is the author of The Needs of Others:  Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, a game in development in the Reacting to the Past Series.  He also hosts a podcast titled "New Books in Genocide Studies" as well as contributing to a similar podcast called "New Books in Sports."

Abby Perkiss is an Assistant Professor of History at Kean University in Union, NJ. Her first book, Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia (Cornell University Press, 2014), examines the creation of intentionally integrated neighborhoods in the latter half of the twentieth century. Her second book, Staring out to Sea: Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey's Forgotten Shore, is also forthcoming with Cornell UP. She is the co-author of two Reacting modules: Changing the Game: Title IX, Gender, and Athletics in American Universities (with Kelly McFall) and Monuments and Memory-Making: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1981-82) (with Kelly McFall and Rebecca Livingstone). Perkiss is the Managing Editor of the Oral History Review and Vice President of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region.