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Shaping the Past / Gestaltung der Vergangenheit

Innovative Forms
of Memory Culture

How does the past take shape, and what happens in the process of coming to terms with the past? What social repercussions are associated with the rooting of history in monuments and memorials? How can those narratives be shifted or upended through alternative, innovative approaches to memorialization?  

These questions are at the center of Shaping the Past, a partnership between Monument Lab, the Goethe-Institut, and the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb). 
More on this project

Project Highlights

Shaping the Past Exhibition Banner

Shaping the Past – Exhibition

Shaping the Past features work by artists, activists, and collectives from North America and Germany that illuminates ongoing memory interventions, reimagines civil society, and offer reparative models that actively shape the past and our paths forward.​ More ...

Monument Lab Town Hall

Goethe-Institut Washington
Monument Lab Town Hall

Our kick off event contained keynote conversations, a graphic recording and video portraits of the 2020 Shaping the Past fellows.

Civic Displace

Goethe-Institut Los Angeles
Civic Displace

How could Indigenous voices shape L.A.’s Memory Culture? A discussion with Julia Bogany, Pamela Villaseñor and Joel Garcia.

Memory Map

Which questions has Shaping the Past tackled so far? Explore videos, photo galleries, and other documentation of the programs and events that have taken part so far in North America. 


Historical memory is constantly shaped and reshaped by new interpretations of the past. Explore unique perspectives, nuanced arguments, and an examination of current events by scholars, activists, and the Monument Lab Fellows. 

Art Kit© Joseph Hladik/Elmhurst Art Museum

The Power of the Message: Send us your message!

Alisha Wormsley, Ayanah Moor and some very special helpers show you in a short video how to create from everyday objects you may already have at home. Send us a photo of your kite, poster, or yard sign and we will publish it on our Facebook and Instagram pages!
Watch the video

Our Fellows

Our Fellows

The fellows for Shaping the Past come from Monument Lab's 2019 and 2020 fellowship cohorts and were selected from an applications pool of over 100 memory workers throughout North America and Germany with existing projects using art, activism, history, journalism, and other tools to approach monuments in their communities. Applications were reviewed by a jury representing the fields of art, history, and social engagement, who recommended applicants who demonstrated excellence, innovative processes and projects for public engagement.


Shaping the Past is produced in partnership with the Goethe-Institut, Monument Lab, and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Agency for Civic Education).

Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung Monument Lab Logo


Local Partners

Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House e.V. 1014 - space for ideas Logo
Friends of the Goethe-Institut Onassis Foundation Los Angeles
Elmhurst Art Museum Chicago