One of the nation’s most important public memorials, the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial, is getting a $2.8 million restoration, thanks to a unique partnership among federal and municipal agencies, open space advocates and history organizations.
The National Park Service, City of Boston, Friends of the Public Garden and the Museum of African American History form the partnership that is undertaking the multi-million dollar restoration. Co-chairs of the Committee to Renew the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial include Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Robert Stanton, former director of the African American National Park Service.
Louis C. Allegrone, Inc. and its team of bronze conservators at Skylight Studios was selected to carefully dismantle, restore, reconstruct, and stabilize the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial. A respected leader in the field of historic structure preservation since 1921, Allegrone is known for its work on the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park, NY and the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield, MA.
Reconstruction of the Shaw 54th Memorial will begin in spring 2020 and is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
The memorial was created by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to honor the Civil War’s first black regiment, and unveiled in 1897.
On October 15, The Partnership to Renew the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial gathered at the memorial site on Boston Common, facing the Massachusetts State House, to unveil plans for the restoration.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh called the restoration “a testament to the passion and expertise we have in Boston. The Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial is one of the great pieces of public art in America and honors the Black Americans in Boston who gave their lives during the Civil War. I’m proud that this monument exists in Boston, and this restoration will help ensure we never forget their sacrifice.”
National Park Service Deputy Regional Director Rose Fennel said the memorial “has served as a crucial platform in our ongoing national story. As we prepare to commemorate the upcoming 250th anniversary of our nation’s founding, the NPS is intentionally looking at the American Revolution in broader terms, not simply as a series of battles and important documents, not as a fixed period in time, but rather as an ongoing work in progress and an unsteady march to freedom.”
Friends of the Public Garden Executive Director Liz Vizza said the restoration effort “coincides with the solemn year-long commemoration of the 400th anniversary of slavery in North America. As we rebuild the Memorial’s foundation, we give new voice to the promise of American values that its story embodies.”
Museum of African American History President & CEO Marita Rivero called the monument “a source of inspiration and strength. It remains as ever a platform and public invitation to discuss the issues of racial equity and human rights. It encourages us to engage in shaping a national public narrative, one we enlarge together by expanding our understanding of the contributions all of us have made to American history.”
Boston Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ryan Woods said, “As we examine the many uses and pieces of America’s first public park through the Boston Common Master Plan, it’s encouraging to know that historic landmarks like the Shaw 54th Memorial continue to play an important role in today’s civic experience.”
While the monument is offsite, life-size interpretive signage along 900 feet of construction fencing will reveal the story of the Civil War, the 54th Regiment, and the Memorial that celebrates it. Created by Visual Dialogue, the museum-like panels will feature images of handwritten letters from Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, enlistment signs recruiting black men to the cause, and photos of the men who served in the 54th Regiment. A pop-up visitor center called the “Shaw Mobile,” which explores the bravery and sacrifice of the 54th Regiment through primary source photos and documents, will also be active on the Common during the restoration period in 2020.
Another option for visitors, residents and students is the Virtual Shaw & 54th Regiment Memorial augmented reality app unveiled at the event. The app allows the public to learn the rich history behind Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ famous public monument and make the Memorial visually available to anyone with a smartphone or tablet. The app is available as a channel on the Hoverlay browser, in the iOS App Store, or Android GooglePlay.
The app was produced by Boston-based AR company Hoverlay in partnership with Emerson College Professor John Craig Freeman. The augmented reality experience features the first physically accurate, life-size recreation of the historical monument in photo-realistic 3D. Narrated by three local African American leaders – author and former CEO of The Partnership, Inc. Carol Fulp, Northeastern University Professor Ted Landsmark, and historian and 54th Regiment reenactor Emmet Bell-Sykes – the virtual monument comes with four holographic stories (available in seven languages) about the men who served, the artist, the original 1897 dedication, and the monument’s social and political role over time.
For more information on the Shaw 54th Memorial, the restoration project, and the Partners, click here.
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