In the midst of everything that goes on in the world, there are many “commonplaces” that link us to seemingly unrelated matters. What is a commonplace, you may ask? A commonplace (or topos) has many definitions which include: a physical space in which people can congregate, a shared idea, and the way in which topic or argument is constructed (as defined by Wikipedia). Now, these isn’t by any means a set definition of a commonplace. Just think of them as a starting point. You know, even the idea of a commonplace is, in and of itself, a commonplace. I know that’s a confusing idea, so let’s take a step back and look at a friendlier example, such as eagles.
The following project is a collection of the eagle as a commonplace. While there is the obvious fact that the eagle is the national bird, there are many more ways in which the eagle is looked at just within American culture. The inspiration for this project came from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters. It seems like a weird place to start, right? As it turns out, I happened to be out exploring in D.C. and saw the architecture on the National Archives. Sitting at the Navy Memorial, I noticed the architectural incorporation of the eagle at the Archives. Then, I realized that the MPD also has eagles in its design. Granted, the fact the the eagles at the MPD are mounted on top of lamp posts is not all that appealing, but I think that adds to the rhetoric of the Metropolitan Police Department. It was these eagles on top of lamp posts, after all, that inspired me to look into different adaptations of the eagle as a commonplace.
As I mentioned before, the fact that the eagles at the MPD are positioned on lamp posts creates rhetoric. What rhetoric does it create? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I’ll tell you what I think though. I think that the fact that the eagles are so small and are not a part of the actual architecture of the building shows some disregard to the national bird. As can be seen in my project, there are identical lamp posts on either side of the main entrance to the MPD Headquarters. When you look at these lamp posts in more depth you can see that right beside each of them are trash cans. The police department put the national bird literally on a pedestal then proceeded to put a trash can right next to it. As a resident of D.C., I was shocked by this and knew I had to use it in my project. I wanted, and still want to, show this representation of the eagle to others and get their opinions on it.
Moving past the police department, I decided to look at the eagle in terms of Washington D.C. specifically. It didn’t take much research to find local businesses with eagles in their names or logos, so I chose the three that seemed to have the most information about them on the internet. The first business I examined was The D.C. Eagle. I had not heard of this establishment until I began my project. The D.C. Eagle, as it turns out, is a gay bar in Northeast D.C. Another business I found is Double Eagle Fitness. This company is owned and run by a couple in the D.C. area. Lastly, I came across EagleBank online but slowly began to notice advertisements for it after I began looking into it. As stated in the name, this establishment is clearly a bank. I used photos of each company’s logo to show the different parts and ways eagles are used to create a message to attract people.
I also looked at how the eagle is represented in the U.S. military. Each branch of the military has its own logo/emblem and an official flag. In my project, I chose to show the flags of the US Marine Corps, the US Navy, and the US Air Force. I chose these three branches because I have friends in each of them and wanted to incorporate military personnel opinions of the eagle. Each interviewee was asked, “What does the eagle in [a specific branch]’s flag mean to you?” The only non-response was from an Airwoman who is currently deployed overseas. The interesting part of the responses, at least in my opinion, was the lack of acknowledgement of the positioning of the eagle. If you look at each flag, you can see that the eagle’s head is turned to the viewer’s left and the wings are expanded. This is likely not a coincidence, and hopefully, my project will inspire you to think about it a little more.
One obvious corner of the world to turn to was the eagle as the national bird. The first thing I wanted to look at here was an Eagle Cam. The one I chose is from a nest in Southeast D.C. Not many people take the time to educate themselves on eagles, so I thought it would be beneficial to pop in a video to show the nature of these birds. I decided to follow up with the eagle as an emblem and chose to show the presidential seal. As with the eagle in military flags, the eagle in the presidential seal is positioned in a certain way that is indicative of a greater meaning. I then turned back to the eagle in the architecture at the National Archives simply because this is where I started.
From here, I chose to look at the eagle as a mascot in the NCAA since American University is part of this organization. This was a more lighthearted way to look at eagles, and it shows how different schools around the country show their school spirit.
Finally, I looked at the eagle on a broader scale. Starting with American Eagle Outfitters, I found logos that incorporate eagles than most Americans can easily identify. Aside from American Eagle Outfitters, I also found the logo for the Philadelphia Eagles football team as well as American Airlines. I wanted to show how the eagle was manipulated into each logo to fit a specific purpose.