Forging Iconographies and Casting Colonialism: Monuments and Memories in Ontario, 1850-2001
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Commemorations are a critical window for exploring the social, political, and cultural trends of a specific time period. Over the past two centuries, the commemorative landscape of Ontario reaffirmed the inclusion/exclusion of particular racial groups. Intended as static markers to the past, monuments in particular visually demonstrated the boundaries of a community and acted as ongoing memorials to existing social structures. Using a specific type of iconography and visual language, the creators of monuments imbued the physical markers of stone and bronze with racialized meanings. As builders were connected with their own time periods and social contexts, the ideas behind these commemorations shifted. Nonetheless, creators were intent on producing a memorial that educated present and future generations on the boundaries of their “imagined communities.” This dissertation considers the carefully chosen iconographies of Ontario’s monuments and how visual symbolism was attached to historical memory. Through the examination of five case studies, this dissertation examines the shifting commemorative landscape of Ontario and how memorials were used to mark the boundaries of communities. By integrating the visual analysis of monuments and related images, it bridges a methodological and theoretical gap between history and art history. This dissertation opens an important dialogue between these fields of study and demonstrates how monuments themselves are critical “documents” of the past.