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Object Lab

Object Lab: Monument Maquettes

By Object Lab, Uncategorized, University Faculty No Comments

Students in courses, Sculpture as Space and Themes in Contemporary Sculpture at Auburn University, led by Associate Professor Kristen Tordella-Williams, researched and proposed contemporary monuments in response to the exhibition Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French. The students researched, proposed, and built maquettes of future monuments that fill in historical gaps and celebrate marginalized communities and spaces.

August 3, 2023

Chris Barraza, “Into Space”

Object Lab: Alabama Monuments

By Object Lab, University Faculty No Comments

For the Spring 2023 semester, Auburn University students across four disciplines worked with The Jule to explore themes related to the exhibition Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French. Throughout the semester, students visited the museum, discussed the exhibition alongside contemporary conversations around monuments, and engaged with curators from Chesterwood and Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, the historic homes, and studios of French and Saint-Gaudens.

Below are essays from students in one of the courses under the direction of associate professor Elijah Gaddis, Department of History, College of Liberal Arts.

Alabama’s monuments offer ways to remember and pasts to forget. Their origin stories are complex tales of local negotiation, regional trends, and shared national values. But their messages aspire to simplicity. These essays, from the course, Museum Practicum, taught by Associate Professor Elijah Gaddis, are about Alabama monuments and the histories they reveal and conceal. As a compilation, they serve as a selective primer to accompany the Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French exhibition that will help you explore Alabama’s memorial landscape with new eyes and questions.

—Museum Studies Practicum Students
Dr. Elijah Gaddis

A stained glass window of a knight.Alabama Monuments
July 27, 2023

The Religion of the Lost Cause at the University of Alabama

By Jerryn Puckett The stained-glass window currently on display at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa showcases the religious and cultural iconography of the Post-Civil War South. Religion has been…
Alabama Monuments
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Traitorous Monuments in Public Spaces: Whose Heroes Are We Remembering?

The Monument to Confederate Soldiers and Sailors is a public display located on the State Capitol grounds in Montgomery, Alabama, erected in 1898. With almost 750,000 casualties, the Civil War…
Alabama Monuments
July 27, 2023

Mobile’s King of Mardi Gras

By Patrick Ward How do you celebrate a man without knowing his cause? Joe Cain, credited with the revival of Mobile, Alabama’s Mardi Gras tradition, represents both a city’s celebration…
Alabama Monuments
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The Power of White Progress to Conceal Black Pain: Dr. J. Marion Sim’s Historical Legacy

By Brucie Porter   The legacy of Alabama's "father of gynecology" masks the exploitation of Black bodies in medicine. On April 19, 1939, the Medical Association of Alabama unveiled a…
Alabama Monuments
July 27, 2023

Youth, Education, and the Lost Cause: Gadsen’s Emma Sanson Monument

By Lori Sadler The myth of Emma Sansom’s role in the Civil War has led to a prideful indoctrination into the Lost Cause for students and residents of Gadsden, Alabama.…
Alabama Monuments
July 27, 2023

Memorializing Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee University

By Zion McThomas The monument “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance” was sculpted in the early 20th century to commemorate the legacy and work of Booker T. Washington. Located in the…
Alabama Monuments
July 27, 2023

Eufaula’s Lost Cause Monument

By Kevin Fabery The Confederate Monument in Eufaula, Alabama, was unveiled in 1904 through the efforts of Barbour County’s United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) chapter. The UDC, as their…
Alabama Monuments
July 27, 2023

Birmingham’s Magic Rebels: Linn Park’s Confederate Monument

By Matthew Poirier Birmingham, Alabama was founded in 1871, and almost by magic, became an industrial boomtown by the 1890s. City leaders created a center of commercial prosperity as well…
Alabama Monuments
July 27, 2023

Monument and the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement: the Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, AL

By Mickell Carter   The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s- 1960s is a central part of American memory. Events and key figures in the Civil Rights movement have inspired…
Alabama Monuments
July 27, 2023

Three Ministers: The Challenge of Memorializing the Civil Rights Movement

By Logan Barrett Three Ministers Kneeling illustrates both the progress and limitations in public memorialization of Alabama’s Black freedom struggle. Installed in Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park by sculptor Raymond Kaskey…

Through the Eyes of Students

By Object Lab No Comments

As an academic museum, The Jule offers an opportunity for a deeply connected learning experience that allows students of the university to engage with our exhibitions and collections in a uniquely intimate manner.

However, we believe that it is not only our job to inform the students, but also to learn from them. Their exceptional vision completes the relationship with the art by finalizing the cycle of “Observed” and “Observer.”

Below are poems that were written by Auburn University art students in response to some of the objects featured in our exhibitions. We strive to encourage this level of engagement because it provides an even deeper layer of meaning, of which we can all gain insight from.

by Mary McCartney

 Tobacco Field

after “Tobacco Blues” by Radcliffe Bailey


The picture was taken,

who knows how long ago,

of a tobacco field

in South Carolina, maybe?

The label won’t tell.

Anyway, it was the place

a family found to survive,

where they worked the land

and grew themselves

like vines that have no intention

but to grow.

Even over the image itself

and I wonder what else has been painted over?

Things not worth hanging in a museum,

what are those?

Because even the blueprint houses

have faded and fallen,

or been torn down,

but white peaks through blue paint

like sunlight behind rain-filled clouds,

and it feels like it could have been today.

by Tatyana Hill

the king of the wood granted me an audience.

inspired by lauren woods, “the mythic nature series“


i visited the king again today

and remembered my manners,

careful as i pressed a kiss

to the underside of a leaf,

the back of lady autumn’s hand

to thank her for the blessing

of an evergreen throne room

where the queen doe resides,


dressed prettily in a gown of

skinned meat & spider webbing,

dead – eyed to the curtsy i give

and the compliment i pay

to the wonderful stench of her

perfume, her body swinging

in the direction of her husband,


the saint undying in a crown of

antler & bone, dressed in a wire

of flora with his stomach torn open,

a bloody wound

that keeps my gaze averted

as i lower myself to my knees,

hands together in a prayer.

by Josh Herring

 From My Perch

after Carlton Nell’s “After 283”

complemented by The Weeknd’s “The Birds pt. 2”


The fabric of their relationship spread

across the forest floor, mangled

amongst the predacious vines of

ignorance and folly – balancing

their hatred for lies and heartless lust.


Contempt on his tongue slipped –

indulgences of sandpaper kisses, papercut bliss

don’t hem the exposed wound of



She pleaded, hands on the heels

of his feet, bleak streams of beauty

rolling off her chin, that she

meant nothing.


Only I and the speckled eyes of God,

bore witness to the limped flight

of another blackened dove.

by Connor Morgan

Burnt Books

inspired by “Burnt Books” by Kristen Tordella-Williams


Their letters warped

by heat and hate.

They have taken on the guise

of black leather,

bat’s wings seeking shelter

in the night.

Others curl like the petals

of a black rose,

hiding their truths

from hateful eyes.


Some managed to defy

the purge, their crisped pages still

proudly bearing the ink

that caused their censure.

Having held the line

against the righteous napalm.


What fueled this outrage?

Exposing the cruelties of existence.

Showing the struggles

of the forgotten.

Displaying the horrors of slavery.

The heinous acts of the Holocaust.

Having the temerity

to say that gay people exist.

Challenging your children’s thoughts.

by Kaylee Weeks

Burnt Books 

inspired by Kristen Tordella-Williams’s “Burnt Books”

and careful consideration of the past, present, and future


Nazi Germany 1933


A fiery address of suppression bisects the cold German night

as students crowd around a fire— Jewish and Western books

as their kindling. They lay exposed and bare as the tendrils

of flames begin to lap at pale pages, their spines failing

to support the knowledge as it fragments to ash. The typeface

merges into a gradient: light brown, charred blacks, and gray.



An attempt at erasure,  guided by government officials

and senseless pride.  Subversive ideologies kept

from circulating, blacklisted, no longer a hazard to those whose faults

they might unveil. Opposing cultures ascend into clouds of smoke

that block pinprick stars—smoldering into a chilling breeze.


History is but an oath kept solely

by fading memories.


The United States 2022


Students form symmetrical lines with desks. Bound copies

are ripped from their hands and are subject to interrogation,

their composure marring them guilty— disturbing imagery

of genocide in Maus, violence in The Kite Runner, harsh racial

content in To Kill a Mockingbird— sentenced indefinitely

to be boxed out of view.



Officials in power will tell you that our kids

should stay kids. Quietly be led back to homes where

pianos sit on display in the foyer and firearms

untouched in the safe. Shielded from the aspects

of the past and unexposed to reality—

hidden from the poison that trapped so many

others in past lives. But it’s a dangerous growth

without understanding history. A fiery act

concealed by coddled censure.

by Jonathan Seibert

Ashes Leftover from a Blazing Night

after Kristen Tordella-Williams “Burnt Books”

and Ondrej Pazdirek “Landscape from the Fall of Icarus Again Again”


I wasn’t alive when the library of Alexandria

burned—but this isn’t another one

of those poems. This isn’t about fear

or hate this time, I too deleted those lines.

What stood out to me is the scars

your pages now bear, because when I thought about the books

from Alexandria, I assumed their secrets were all scorched to ashes––

their words lost like whispers in a crowd; yet here I am, towering

over a tribe of books unrecognized

by most, their insides damaged by war or a simple accident.

These books are not shy, desperately trying to conceal their wounds––

rather, they pridefully embrace them, spread-eagle

on a blank canvas on display to the world

as if to say, “Here I am. Accept me for what I’ve become.”

I notice couplets of words on one book’s page, faint pictures

from another, only burnt marshmallow gunk

on another. It isn’t all gone after all,

but they’re far from the same. I wonder if the man who risked

his life to save just one book from the roaring

fires of Alexandria ever dared to open the history he had rescued,

or if he was afraid it too had been singed beyond value? Perhaps when the first

neanderthal discovered a Mesopotamian man writing on papyrus

he felt as I do now. Frightened, not of what was being done,

but by the change itself. I wasn’t there when we invented the internet,

and so I never learned what it was like for our ancestors

to pour out their stories on naked paper with pen.

I never learned what it was like to have the one copy

of your life’s work burn in front of you,

as a clone of mine will always live on somewhere in the cloud.

But what I did learn is what it felt like to have the inability

for people to read your most intimate details

known only to you and the page they were imprinted on. I stand here now,

looking over this collection of memories forgotten

and I ask myself: when the sun rose on the Alexandrians,

did they reach for another piece of paper,

sit down just as we do today and say:

Here’s to the blank page.

Object Lab: Radcliffe Bailey’s “Tobacco Blues”

By News, Object Lab No Comments

What family photos from the past are special to you? How can they help us to better understand each other in the present?

Radcliffe Bailey explores American history and familial memory to encourage healing and reflection through art.

In “Tobacco Blues,” Bailey centers a photograph of tobacco plants on his grandfather’s farm in Virginia. He surrounds this image with a patchwork of different shades of blue, arching vines and branches, and drawings of historic African American architecture.  He bridges the gap between past and present with the inclusion of words from contemporary African American poetry.

By Christy Barlow
School & Community Programs Senior Manager
Education, Engagement & Learning

Cross and vine imagery surround an archival photo of a Virginia tobacco farm.

Radcliffe Bailey
“Tobacco Blues,” 2000
Gift of Lynn Barstis Williams Katz to the Imprinting the South Collection
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University