Objectify Benedict Arnold: Making Memory of America’s Traitor

Son of an alcoholic. Merchant. Husband. Soldier. General. Traitor. This digital humanities project is a first look at the range of visual and material culture associated to the life and legacy of Benedict Arnold (1740-41-1801), a man who remains–almost 250 years after his infamous turn–symbolic in American culture. Reflecting the shadow of Arnold’s long reach across geography and memory, art and artifacts created and used by Arnold and by others to shape his memory exist in museum collections, libraries, historic sites and churches from Canada to the Caribbean, and from New York to London.

What can objects tell us about the man and how American culture shaped his memory? Is there just one image of Arnold, or many? Does the memory of him change according to place and time? How was the image of Arnold transmitted to the public? The use of visual and material culture offers another view into the life of Benedict Arnold and his role in American history, enabling us to cross boundaries of time and place, part of a nationwide reassessment of what it means craft an American life, leading up the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States, in 2026.

Laura A. Macaluso is working with Rachel Boyle, Ph.D. of Omnia History to produce a website dedicated to Arnold’s story using Omeka and Neatline technology for a storytelling experience. Coming 2022.