In Loving Memory

A Study of Vernacular Memorials in Delaware County
About our Project About the Book About the Map
In Loving Memory: A Study of Vernacular Memorials in Delaware County was a Virginia Ball Center seminar held during the fall semester in 2011. The lead professor of the project, Dr. Deborah Mix, is an associate professor of English whose primary teaching focus is in 20th century literature. This seminar was a step outside of her comfort zone pedagogically speaking but satisfied a curiosity she had about memorialization in the 21st century. Questions such as "Why do people memorialize?" and "Why are these spontaneous memorials chosen as a way to grieve?" guided our the four-month journey that pulled together fourteen students from various disciplines to learn in a new setting, one different from the classroom setting to which we'd become accustomed.

For our first three weeks of the semester, we met daily to discuss several pieces of criticism and theory regarding memorialization. We uncovered the answers that others had given to our questions, and we were encouraged to come up with our own answers to why we memorialize those we have lost in tragic circumstances and why we choose to do so with methods, like tattoos and events, that may seem, at first glance, unorthodox. At the conclusion of the three weeks, we did not yet have any concrete answers to our questions, but we did have some ideas: A memorial should be a physical thing, including web pages; a memorial should be to someone who has lost his life, or is fighting for it; a memorial is built in order to aid in the grieving process. In order to bolster our knowledge, we traveled to Washington, D.C. so that we could study official memorials and understand why men like Washington and Jefferson have had monuments built in their honor. But we also needed to understand why those monuments share the spotlight with memorials to the many men and women lost in tragedies like the Vietnam War and 9/11.

Once we returned from D.C., we went straight to work investigating the memorials within our own county. We divided a map of Delaware County into fifteen sections and traveled in teams to each section, armed with a camera and a GPS coordinator, to look for roadside memorials and car decals. Some memorials that we found bore no names or hints as to their creators, but many did. We took the names we had found on these memorials and sought out family and friends in order to larn more. We also began contacting individuals with tattoos and those who held events designed to remember lost loved ones. The interviews we conducted were not only with family, friends, and acquaintances, but also with business operators and state and county employees.

With these interviews under our belts, we divided ourselves into five teams in order to consolidate our work in writing the essays that would be presented in the book. At the same time, the coordinates and photos gathered during the memorial-hunting trips were compiled into an interactive Google Earth map that can be downloaded and accessed on any computer. And throughout the process, the metadocumentary team has recorded footage of our actions, and at the completion of the book sat us down individually and in teams for interviews relating to the progress of the seminar and the projects we had undertaken.

This website is part of the seminar project. Here you will find a separate page dedicated to the book, "In Loving Memory," as well as a page dedicated to the Google Earth map and a download link for the map. At the time of writing, we have located forty-seven roadside memorials in Delaware County and many other types of memorials, but it is likely that there are some we have missed, and even more likely that there will be new memorials created after the completion of this project. But we hope that this project raises awareness of the methods of memorialization and why it has become so important, in our modern society, to remember whose who have died.
© 2011. Courtesy of Ball State University and the Virginia Ball Center.