Monument Lab is a public art and history initiative based in Philadelphia. We are a team of curators, artists, scholars, and students who ask open research questions and build prototype monuments in public spaces. Monument Lab produces citywide exhibitions, collaborative installations, scholarly publications, video projects, as well as publicly-sourced creative open datasets. Our goals: to unearth the next generation of monuments and change to ways we write the history of cities together.
Through our practice, we ask open research questions to cultivate contemporary artworks, generate publicly sourced civic data, and co-author interpretive experiences with artists, students, and public participants.
Philadelphia, like many of our other partner cities, is a city full of monuments and memorials. It is also a city full of monumental histories, many of which are little known, obscured, or simply unacknowledged. These underrepresented histories often exist in tension with officially acknowledged narratives. The projects that make up Monument Lab address issues of social justice and solidarity, including matters of race, gender, sexuality, class, and national belonging. Monument Lab projects include those made of stone and bronze, as well as recycled materials, images, sounds, and the byproducts of community process.
Founded in 2012, Monument Lab emerged from a series of classroom conversations. In 2015, it grew to include the installation of a pair of outdoor classrooms in the courtyard of Philadelphia’s City Hall through a discovery phase – one, a sculpture envisioned by the late artist Terry Adkins and the other, an adjacent learning lab operated by students who gathered hundreds of public monument proposals. In the continued spirit of collaborative learning, Monument Lab collaborated with Mural Arts Philadelphia on a citywide exhibition in 2017 featuring temporary prototype monuments by 20 artists across 10 sites in Philadelphia’s iconic public squares and neighborhood parks, presented together with research labs, where nearly 5,000 creative monument proposals were collected from Philadelphians and visitors. The proposals offer a dataset of public speculation available on OpenDataPhilly. They also will be shared in a forthcoming Report to the City and book edited by Farber and Lum titled, Monument Lab: A Public Art and History Project (Temple University Press, 2019).
Banner Image: Terry Adkins, Prototype Monument for Center Square, City Hall Philadelphia, 2015. (Photograph by Steve Weinik/Monument Lab)