Plaque to the Future: Memorial Stickers Commemorate Everyday People & Places

Artist Lily Goodspeed has taken to the streets of Philadelphia with an unusual take on commemorative plaques. Conventional metal plaques cost more money, need to meet notability requirements and feature deceased individuals. Goodspeed’s waterproof stickers, however, show there is room to rethink those limiting criteria.

9th and Dickinson

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“I feel like there are such amazing stories happening every day,” Goodspeed told Philly.com. Yet “there are so few official plaques,” only a few hundred in Philadelphia (and few thousand total across Pennsylvania). “I thought it would be great to have some unofficial ones, telling the types of stories that don’t always get recognized.”

Screenshot of Plaque to the Future Instagram page

The plaques capture another side to cities — those quirky but everyday tales that won’t make it into future history books and classroom lectures. The stories the stickers tell are often strange but humorous, like a man picking up a pigeon and putting it into his coat. Another recounts how a group of friends came to realize they had all gone through break-ups in one particular park.

Goodspeed’s approach takes about a week from start to finish as she turns text into stickers and then deploys them. This turnaround time is, of course, much shorter than typical plaque planning and installation, and her process is cheaper too (a more robust and official plaque starts at around $1,000). Of course, they are not meant to be stand-ins for permanent city or state plaques. Although they borrow from the same visual design language, these stickers are made to function as temporary installations.

“People’s experiences of cities are a patchwork of all these different memories, people you knew, experiences you had, trials and tribulations,” explains Goodspeed. “The point of the project is to appreciate a city as that patchwork of different layers of time and place and people that are constantly changing.”

So far, Goodspeed has posted a few dozen around town. Some have no doubt been removed by now, but others keep appearing. Her website also has a submission form so anyone interested in memorializing something they have seen or experienced can send in their story.

CVS at 10th and Reed

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Comments (3)

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  1. EG

    Reminds me a little of the Wheeler Centre’s “#discuss” campaign in Melbourne – they placed up temporary plaques to spark conversations. Some of them are still up, some of them have disappeared by now. Worth a look.

  2. Yichao

    Very interesting article. Thank you!

    I do am curious how to deal with the potential obscenity on these labels. Maybe it would be standardized or semi-customizable (fixed texts or blanks to fill)?

    Still interesting idea.

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