Emily Neumeier became fascinated with the concept of monuments in the summer of 2020 as she watched people around her question the significance of several statues and monuments as they participated in social justice movements after the murder of George Floyd.
“It was a great summer for monuments, and it was directly related to these questions about what monuments represent to us,” said Neumeier, a professor of art history and Islamic art. “There have been conversations about the Robert E. Lee statue, there have been conversations about Confederate monuments, about Philadelphia monuments.”
This winter, Neumeier is leading his graduate student seminar by creating “Monument Biography,” a 10-part podcast discussing the various meanings and meanings that historic sites can embody. The show launched in November 2021 and just released its eighth episode on February 3, which covered the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia.
“The idea is that each episode, each student, each producer, selects a monument that was special to them, that has meaning for them, and they produce an entire episode trying to tell the biography, the story of each of these places or sites,” Neumeier said.
The podcast releases two to three episodes per month on STELLA Radio, part of the online exhibition platform the Tyler School of Art and Architecture created in 2020 to showcase student work virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. .
“Monument Biography” isn’t Neumeier’s first podcast experience, but it’s the first time she’s storyboarded and edited audio with others, she said. Still, she was thrilled to teach students the technical side of podcasting, conduct interviews, and do fieldwork.
Kati Gegenheimer, who helped organize the launch of STELLA in 2020, was thrilled to help Neumeier tackle this project and is very proud of the quality of the student episodes.
“They all put a lot of effort and time into creating these really professional podcast episodes as a group,” said Gegenheimer, associate director of academic enrichment programs at Tyler. “It’s no small task.”
Michael Lally, a PhD candidate in the Art History program, hosted the fifth episode of the podcast, which was released on January 13. He took listeners on a narrative exploration of Fairfield Hills Psychiatric Hospital, located in his hometown of Newtown, Connecticut.
Although he saw the site growing up, Lally did not previously know it was a psychiatric hospital. He visited last year and became interested in the hospital’s connection to Newtown, and found stories of doctors and patients who gathered to watch the townspeople play baseball on the fields of the property.
“When I visited recently, it was interesting to note that there was no acknowledgment of the site as being a former psychiatric hospital on any sign or anything,” Lally said.
Lally had never created or listened to a podcast before, but enjoyed the process of producing her episode, even though there was a learning curve. He felt the hard work was worth it after seeing how much his friends, family and peers enjoyed his podcast.
Other episodes include “Love to Hate It, Hate to Love it – Philadelphia’s First Skyscraper,” which delves into the formation of Philadelphia’s skyline, and “Stories of the Galata Tower,” which unpacks the many reimaginings of Istanbul Tower.
Mayret Rubenstein, a 2020 Art History alumnus, loves listening to the podcast because it makes her feel connected to Temple’s art history community.
“You’re never sure what you’re going to learn until you listen to the episode,” Rubenstein said.
“Everything is different and understanding that they are your classmates is very joyful.”
Rubenstein was recently accepted into Temple’s M.A. in Art History program and hopes to be able to work on the podcast as a graduate student.
Neumeier hopes the podcast will encourage other Temple students or professors to produce their own podcasts and open up a new perspective for listeners.
“One thing I hope listeners get from this particular podcast is to realize how fluid the meaning of monuments is,” Neumeier said.