Cynthia C. Prescott: Pioneer Monuments in the American West

Hi, my name is Cynthia Prescott, and I am an associate professor of history at the University of North Dakota. My website, Pioneer Monuments in the American West, began as an inexpensive way to display color photographs of the nearly 200 public statues and sculptural reliefs I examine in my new book.  But building that website had a profound impact on my research project. Going digital enabled me to better manage my growing database of monuments. A tool developed for that website enabled me to map the erection of those monuments over both time and space. That in turn led me to ask new research questions that enriched my analysis of those monuments on the website and in the book.

As public attention turned toward increasingly controversial monuments beginning in 2015, I reimagined the scope and purpose of my website. While it remains a repository for images and content that didn’t fit into my 400-page monograph, I now envision it primarily as a tool for public engagement. Through my website and a variety of other platforms, I seek to inform ongoing debates about controversial monuments, and to spark conversations about similar monuments that have thus far gone unchallenged. I gave a series of public presentations, several of which can now be streamed through my website. I collaborated with K-12 teachers to develop model lesson plans that are now freely available on that site. And I am partnering with Clio—a website and mobile app that guides the public to thousands of historic sites—to reach more readers and to build actual and virtual tours of pioneer monuments throughout the United States.

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