Order Code RS21080
Updated May 21, 2008
Memorials: Creating National, State,
and Local Memorials
Zina L. Watkins
Information Research Specialists
Knowledge Services Group
This report provides information on the mandatory steps to building a memorial on
federal property in the District of Columbia. It also provides information on creating
memorials in Arlington National Cemetery, within the Department of Veterans Affairs
National Cemetery System, and in state veterans’ cemeteries. In addition, it discusses
public and private initiatives at the state and local levels to create memorials including
successful local fund-raising efforts. This report will be updated annually.
24 Steps to Erecting a Memorial in Washington, DC1
Listed below are the requisite steps that must be met in order to build a memorial or
monument on federal property in the District of Columbia.
Memorial sponsor seeks National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission
(NCMAC)2 assistance to review the requirements and process established by the
Commemorative Works Act of 19863 and its applicability to the proposed
Information compiled from material received from the Office of Lands, Resources, and
Planning, National Capital Region, U.S. National Park Service, August 27, 2007.
National Capital Planning Commission, the Commission on Fine Arts, and the National Capital
Memorial Commission are the three federal agencies responsible for the location and design of
new commemorative works on federal land. Since 1997, the agencies have worked together as
the Joint Task Force on Memorials. In their initial report, the Joint Task Force recommended to
Congress that the Commemorative Works Act be amended to change the name of the National
Capital Memorial Commission to the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission. The
request was granted in P.L. 99-652.
For Commemorative Works Act, see P.L. 99-652.
Contact Glen DeMarr, (202) 619-7027 or Nancy Young, (202) 619-7097 at the National Park
Memorial sponsor seeks a Senator or Representative a who is willing to draft and
introduce a bill to authorize establishment of the memorial.
Staff of NCMAC, Member of Congress who will introduce it, and authorizing
committees5 draft a bill that conforms to the provisions of the CWA.
Member of Congress introduces bill authorizing the memorial and designating the
sponsor as the entity responsible for its erection at no cost to the federal government.
The NCAMC considers proposed authorizing legislation to establish its views
pursuant to CWA.
Chairmen of the Senate and House authorizing Subcommittees on National Parks
solicit views of the NCMAC, may hold hearings on proposed authorizing legislation,
and take action on a bill before sending it to full House and Senate.
Congress passes the bill and the President signs the bill into law, providing memorial
sponsor seven years in which to begin construction of memorial in Area II.
Memorial sponsor organizes the structure of the entity that will establish the
memorial and begins planning.
Memorial sponsor may submit to the Secretary of the Interior a request to be
authorized to consider sites in Area I. The Secretary seeks the advice of NCMAC
to determine whether the memorial warrants placement in Area I. Based on the
advice of NCMAC, the Secretary notifies Congress of the determination that the
subject is of preeminent and lasting historical significance (CWA Sec. 6(a) so that
Congress can consider passage of legislation authorizing an Area I location for
enactment by the President.
10. Memorial sponsor works with NPS staff to identify potential Area II sites (may
include Area I if authorized) and prepare alternative site study and accompanying
preliminary environmental analysis.
11. Memorial sponsor, for sites within Area II, or Area I if authorized, submits
alternative site study and accompanying preliminary environmental analysis to NPS
for approval of its preferred site and consultation with NCMAC.
12. NPS submits recommended site and environmental document to the National Capital
Planning Commission (NCPC) and the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) for
Service for additional information.
Prior to the 104th Congress, the committees of jurisdiction were the House Committee on House
Administration and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. During the 104th
Congress, House jurisdiction was transferred to the Committee on Resources. For details, see
CRS Report 98-662, Commemorative Legislation: Evolution and Process, by Stephen W. Stathis.
approval. NPS initiates Section 106 consultation on its recommendation of the site
with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO).
13. After site approval by the NCPC and CFA, and in consultation with SHPO, the
design process begins in accordance with any approved design guidelines.
14. Memorial sponsor selects a designer or initiates a design competition.
15. Memorial sponsor selects preferred design concept and meets with NPS to discuss
issues that design may present. After possible refinements, sponsor submits the
design concept and accompanying draft environmental document to the NPS.
16. NPS reviews design concept and, upon concurrence, submits it to NCPC and CFA
with appropriate environmental document for approval.
17. Memorial sponsor, in close coordination with NPS, refines the design concept on the
basis of NCPC, CFA, and SHPO comments and submits preliminary design to NPS
who, upon approval, submits it to NCPC and CFA for approval.
18. Memorial sponsor, in close coordination with the NPS, refines preliminary design
on the basis of comments and submits final design to NPS who, upon approval,
submits it to NCPC and CFA for approval.
19. Memorial design team completes final drawings and specifications in close
coordination with NPS.
20. Memorial sponsor completes fund-raising.
21. Memorial sponsor submits final drawings and specifications, cost estimate, and
evidence of funds on hand plus 10% cash payment of design and construction costs
for maintenance to NPS.
22. NPS issues a construction permit on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior, which
constitutes final approval by the Secretary and the start of construction.
23. Memorial sponsor begins construction and preparation of operation, maintenance,
and preservation plans for the memorial.
24. Memorial is dedicated and conveyed to the NPS for management with accompanying
as-built operation, maintenance, and preservation plans.
For additional information on procedures related to the creation of memorials in the
District of Columbia, see CRS Report 98-662, Commemorative Legislation: Evolution
and Procedures; CRS Report RL31390, Legislative History of the World War II
Memorial and World War II Commemorative Legislation; and CRS Report RL32983, Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Commemorative Works and Other Honors Authorized by
Memorials at the State and Local Levels
The federal government does not provide direct funding for memorials at the local
and state levels; furthermore, there is no unified standard process for constructing
memorials across the 50 states. These memorials are often established through state
legislation, and funded with a combination of state funds and private donations. Usually
a nonprofit organization is formed to serve as a planning and fund-raising committee.
(For information on how to start a nonprofit organization, see CRS Report 96-264,
Frequently Asked Questions About Tax-Exempt Organizations.) Often a competition is
held to select the design of the memorial. Funds are raised through a variety of means
including private and corporate donations, the sale of commemorative souvenirs, and
community activities. Numerous state and local veterans’ memorials have been
established by the combined effort of state and local governments, and private nonprofit
organizations, some comprised of local veterans’ groups, to honor the memory of local
heroes. Nonmilitary memorials are established through the same processes.
Memorials in Arlington National Cemetery
Memorials erected in Arlington National Cemetery require a joint concurrent
resolution by Congress as noted in 32 C.F.R. § 553.22 (l).6 In the past, memorials have
been created to honor the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger in June 1986,7 the Space
Shuttle Columbia in February 2004, and the victims of the Pan American flight 103
explosion, which took place over Lockerbie, Scotland, in November 1995.8 However, if
the plan includes burying remains in a mass grave, then it would not require congressional
Memorials in the Department of Veterans
Affairs National Cemetery System
The National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) Advisory Committee on Cemeteries
and Memorials is responsible for the building of suitable memorials within a national
cemetery administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), by authority of P.L.
93-43 (see Sections 1001, 1002, and 1007 for details). Information on the NCA’s
Advisory Committee on Cemeteries and Memorials is available at the VA’s website
See also Appendix A to Part 553 — Specifications for Tributes in Arlington National Cemetery.
Information on the Challenger Memorial is available at [http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/
Visitor_information/Space_Shuttle_Challenger.html]. The Challenger exploded just after takeoff
on Jan. 28, 1986, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Information on the Lockerbie Memorial Cairn at Arlington National Cemetery is available on
the Internet at [http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/visitor_information/Pan_Am_Memorial.html].
Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, as the result of a
Information on group burials at Arlington National Cemetery is available on the Internet at
offices seeking additional guidance on creating a memorial should contact the Office of the
Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, at (703) 695-3175.
Memorials in State Veterans’ Cemeteries
Many states have established state veterans’ cemeteries. Eligibility is similar to the
VA national cemeteries but may include residency requirements. State veterans’
cemeteries may have been established or improved with funds through VA’s State
Cemetery Grants Program but are run solely by the states. Cemeteries in each state should
be contacted directly regarding the necessary procedures for building a memorial within
their cemetery system. Information on individual state cemeteries is available on the
Internet at [http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/scg/lsvc.asp] and on the VA’s State Cemetery
Grants Program at [http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/scg_grants.asp].
Sources of Additional Information
Gabor, Andrea. “Even Our Most Loved Monuments Had a Trial by Fire.” Smithsonian,
May 1997, pp. 97-98, 100, 102, 104, 106.
Kohler, Sue A. Commission on Fine Arts: A Brief History, 1910-1995. Washington:
Commission on Fine Arts, 1996.
National Capital Planning Commission. The Federal Capital Improvements Program
(FCIP) Fiscal Years 2008-2013.
Washington: The Commission, 2007.
National Capital Planning Commission. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitors Center,
Commission Actions. August 3, 2006.
Reps, John W. Monumental Washington: The Planning and Development of the Capital
Center. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967.
Smithsonian Institution. Site Announced for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African
American History and Culture. News Release. January 30, 2006.
Selected Addresses and Websites
Commission on Fine Arts (CFA)
401 F Street, NW, Suite 312
Washington, DC 20001-2728
Tel: (202) 504-2200; Fax: (202) 504-2195
The CFA was established in 1910, by P.L. 61-181, as a permanent entity to advise
the government on matters pertaining to the arts including the location of statues,
memorials, and fountains erected by the federal government in the nation’s capital. Seven
members are appointed by the President to serve a four-year term each on the
National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC)
401 Ninth Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20576
Tel: (202) 482-7200; Fax: (202) 482-7272
The NCPC provides overall planning guidance for federal land and buildings in the
National Capital Region, which includes the District of Columbia. The Commission
seeks to protect and beautify the historical and cultural resources of the District through
its planning policies and procedures.
National Cemetery Administration (NCA)
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: (800) 697-6947
The NCA is responsible for the 119 national cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto
Rico) as well as 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites, and for the building of suitable
memorials within the VA’s national cemetery system.
National Park Service
National Capital Region
Office of Lands, Resources, & Planning
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
Tel: (202) 619-7097
Under the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, P. L. 99-652, this is the office that
coordinates memorial proposals, draft legislation, sites and designs for memorials within
the District of Columbia, and major projects by state and local governments on park land.
State and Local
The following websites provide examples of successful state or local efforts to
Baltimore Police Memorial
Maine Korean War Memorial
Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial