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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 were 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 ...

The Dispersed Memorial © Goethe-Institut e.V.

Goethe-Institut Mexiko
The Dispersed Memorial: COVID-19 Prototype and Memorial

The Dispersed Memorial, designed and created by Sergio Beltrán-García and Rodrigo da Silva, proposes a low-cost, modular, and self-constructed memorial that makes use of mixed-reality technologies.

Sound, Space and Remembrance © Goethe-Institut e.V.

Goethe-Institut Boston
Sound, Space and Remembrance

Scholar and author Louis Chude-Sokei and sound artist Emeka Ogboh consider their sound practices within the context of memorialization and ask how the medium of sound can point to new ways to remember and study all narratives of the past.

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.

Keith Beauchamp & Patrick Weems discuss memory culture in film © Goethe-Institut e.V.

Goethe Pop Up Kansas City
Memory Culture in Film

Keith Beauchamp (Director, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till) joins Executive Director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, Patrick Weems, for a discussion about memory culture in film.

But as surely as the future becomes the past, the past becomes the future

Ursula K. Le Guin

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. 

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