shaw 54th memorial installation
Directly across from the Massachusetts State House, the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial—honoring the heroism of the first African American soldiers who served in the Civil War—has stood for 123 years. Beyond the significance of the bronze relief sculpture as an important and beautiful work of art, the story behind it is truly remarkable. So when the memorial was removed for restoration, there was an opportunity to use over 900 feet of construction fence in the Boston Common to tell the story.
Working with our partners at the Friends of the Public Garden, Museum of African American History, and National Park Service, the story of Colonel Shaw (of Beacon Hill), the 54th Regiment, and the memorial that commemorates them is brought to life on an outdoor exhibition we designed. The installation features archival photos (including rarely seen carte de visite portraits of men of the 54th); historic documents such as recruitment posters and handwritten letters; and quotes from Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Booker T. Washington. It also shows Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ process of creating what has been called American’s most beautiful public monument. After its dedication in 1897 through the present, the memorial has served as a backdrop for both celebrations and protests (and inspired the 1989 film Glory) while occupying a key spot at the intersection of Boston’s Freedom Trail and Black Heritage Trail. This outdoor “museum without walls” will be up through the end of this year.