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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
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You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs /Urban Natural Resources Stewardship / Natural resources and public health / Living Memorials that Commemorate the 9/11 Attacks
Urban Natural Resources Stewardship

Living Memorials that Commemorate the 9/11 Attacks

[photo:] New York City Fire Department (FDNY) members planting a memorial tree on the Living Memorial Trail in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx, NY (photo courtesy of the Living Memorials Project National Registry).

Research Issue

Living memorials are landscaped spaces created to commemorate individuals, places, and events. They can be found on publicly accessible sites such as forests, town squares, community gardens, and the public right of way. Common examples include single tree plantings and parks.

Hundreds of people across the U.S. created living memorials in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.  The U.S. Forest Service created a national registry and map of these memorials – see the Living Memorials Project site at www.livingmemorialsproject.net.  The Northern Research Station then followed up to find out what motivates people to create living memorials and what meanings these memorials have in people’s lives and communities.

Our Research

The Northern Research Station has participated in a series of projects related to 9/11 living memorials.  We first conducted an open and participatory assessment of public spaces that have been created, used, or enhanced in memory of this tragic event. Researchers created a National Registry that serves as an online inventory of hundreds of community-based, living memorial sites. Memorials created from 2001-2004 are displayed on a national map that will continue to be updated as new site locations are identified, registered and uploaded to the site. Findings from the research are available on the website: www.livingmemorialsproject.net.

Land-markings: 12 Journeys through 9/11 Living Memorials was a multimedia exhibition that compressed four years of research data and analysis on over 700 living memorials into 12 digitally authored journeys. Social science researchers, urban ecologists, designers, and architects worked together to collect, analyze, and present these responses to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. This exhibition presented memorials as ways we commemorate events and individuals and also explored the functions and locations of the memorials. Land Markings was organized jointly by Parsons The New School for Design, The Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The Living Memorials research project was awarded the 2007 EDRA/Places Award for Research. The National Registry was also given an award on September 11, 2007 for "Preserving 9/11" by Voices of September 11th.

More recently, a Northern Research Station study sought to understand how environmental stewards value, use, and talk about their living, community-based memorials related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  We were also interested in the extent to which living memorial sites are considered sacred by their creators or stewards and how sacredness varies by memorial site type.  Research on the sacredness of urban open space in the context of disturbance continues with a current study on Landscapes of Resilience.

Research Results

Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2010. Living Memorials: Understanding the Social Meanings of Community-Based Memorials to September 11, 2001Environment and Behavior 42: 318-334. 

Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Duong, Phu. 2007. Land-markings: 12 Journeys through 9/11 Living Memorials [DVD].

Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2006. Land-markings: 12 Journeys through 9/11 Living Memorials. Gen Tech. Rep. NRS-INF-1-06. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 49 pp.

Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2005. Living memorials project: year 1 social and site assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-333. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 123 pp.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Erika S. Svendsen, Research Social Scientist, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station
  • Lindsay K. Campbell, Research Social Scientist, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station

Research Partners

  • U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry
  • Parsons The New School for Design
  • The Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School
  • Urban Interface
  • Approach

Last Modified: 05/08/2013