Humanizing History Through Landscapes

How are race and history represented in landscapes?

A landscape is like a museum in itself. It is an artifact of history and can present questions to invoke critical thinking. In this article, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, a professor of anthropology and museum studies at IUPUI, shares her knowledge of how California mission landscapes represent race and history, causing polarizing emotions.

Missions can bring up intense connection and fond memories, or they can conjure profound pain. The questions that are presented in these spaces have the ability to steer these emotions. This concept, as you can imagine, is also true in other landscapes.

We’ve all seen fourth grade textbooks, or statues of a priest with an indigenous child, that avoid the oppression and genocide of Native American history.

Yes, historical spaces can paint a specific erroneous picture by “glossing over” particular parts of the story (10 Controversial Statues in California). Still, it is also true that colonizers believed that they were making their own sacrifices to do what God asked them to do. So how can landscapes present history and stories with “truth” without offending one particular group?

Elizabeth argues that the questions being asked/presented in these spaces must include the opinions and voices of both sides and should engage the current visitor to think on their own. The evolution of missions in California present a perfect example of how a landscape can be a catalyst to address social injustice and present-day social issues.  Is removing a statue also removing a piece of history? Can a landscape invoke empathy for both sides of a story? What do you think? How?

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