KingstonWashington, DC Great Lakes Installation
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Katie Hargrave / Great Lakes, Great Fears, Great Memorials

The Great Lakes are an important cultural body in the US. Commonly referred to as “the third coast”, “the north coast”, or an inland sea, they create an identity for the Midwest and for the country. As a nation boasting always the biggest and the best, we have the largest freshwater system in the world, containing twenty-two percent of the world’s freshwater.

In 1818, following the War of 1812, the United States and Britain signed an armament treaty, the Rush-Bagot Treaty, disallowing massive weaponry within the Great Lakes. This barely remembered treaty is the subject of this project, which investigates the boundary-associated fear, forgotten monuments, and unrecognized promises.

I look at two monuments built in honor of the Rush-Bagot Treaty, one at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and the other on privately owned land in Washington D.C. Following the September 11 attacks, the United States reinterpreted the treaty and began rearming ships on the Great Lakes. Interestingly, at the time this rearmament occured, the D.C. monument was behind a construction fence as the land where the monument stood was being turned into luxury condominiums. The question arises: when a monument is hidden, is the event, treaty or person it memorializes so easily forgotten? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

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