As communities increasingly remove Confederate monuments from public spaces, they must decide what to do with these troubled statues. Given the recent wave of monument removal, we consider how property law and other restrictions impact community decisions on the disposition of monuments removed from public spaces on two levels by location and future owner. In considering the fate of removed monuments, we profile potential destinations including museums, battlefields, cemeteries, and even storage. Alongside these examples, we discuss how laws constrain (or fail to constrain) the options for new owners and the restrictions on where monuments can be relocated. Even where laws do not constrain their removal choices, communities may choose to relinquish ownership to a Confederate heritage organization (or to another governmental entity) to speed removal. While transferring ownership is initially appealing, surrendering ownership may not be the best long-term decision for a community. Communities can lose control over the display of transferred statues, which fails to address the root of the problem. Where possible, communities should retain ownership (and therefore control) of removed statues or consider how other property law tools, such as transfer agreements, can impose discipline on the new owners. Making considered decisions on both the future display and owner is critical to the overall removal movement and to ensure that the legacy of these troubled statutes is properly addressed.
Jessica Owley and Jess Phelps, The Afterlife of Confederate Monuments, 98 Ind. L.J. 371 (2023).