The Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University continues its series of Sunday afternoon lectures related to the exhibition, “The Picturesque and War: Visual and Literary Aspects of 19th Century Tourism.” Dr. Thomas Chambers will give a lecture and sign books from 2 until 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, at the Castellani Art Museum.
Chambers, pictured, will discuss his recently published book, “Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic.”
In “Memories of War,” Chambers recounts America’s rediscovery of its early national history through the rise of battlefield tourism in the first half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps no other part of the U.S. saw more battles during the War of 1812 than the Niagara River borderland in Western New York. In later years its decaying fortifications and overgrown battlefields provided reminders of the struggle’s bloodshed and indecisive conclusion.
Tourists traveling to Niagara Falls visited nearby Fort Niagara, Queenston Heights or Lundy’s Lane constructing the war’s memory in the process. As one visitor wrote during an 1821 trip to Niagara, “This beautiful country stimulates my patriotism.” Battlefields and monuments on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border became sites where Americans, and especially New Yorkers, came to understand why the War of 1812 mattered, and how they could remember its fallen heroes. Their emotional responses to place and history at Niagara’s battlefields both honored veterans and neglected the war’s causes. Memories of 1812 envisioned a peaceful border between two nations that had once shed each other’s blood.
Chambers is associate professor of history and department chair at Niagara University. He took his Ph.D. and M.A. at the College of William and Mary, and earned his B.A. at Middlebury College. He currently serves as chairman of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission, and has been active in the 1812 Legacy Council.
“The Picturesque and War: Visual and Literary Aspects of 19th Century Niagara Tourism” and related programming is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and is sponsored, in part, by the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council, the Canadian Consulate General and Old Glory Flag & Banner, a division of Cooper Sign Company (Niagara Falls, N.Y.). The exhibition runs through Feb. 24, 2013.