Brattleboro Museum & Art Center 

Endangered Alphabets Obelisk

May - November 2021


The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC)

"Endangered Alphabets Obelisk",  [installation view]

The Commons Community News

Scott Boyd: Endangered Alphabets” is a 10-foot-high obelisk that will be on view in the BMAC Sculpture Garden from May through November. Scott Boyd inscribed characters, symbols, and scripts drawn from the writing systems of endangered languages into the four sides of the obelisk.

According to BMAC Chief Curator Mara Williams, “While most obelisks are reverential monuments commemorating the dead and honoring great leaders, Scott Boyd’s stands for what we are about to lose—a pre-monument, if you will. As writing systems and whole languages vanish, cultural diversity narrows. Unique expressions of community, of humanity, are lost.”

Boyd initially became interested in endangered alphabets when he attended a presentation by Tim Brookes, the founder of the Endangered Alphabets Project, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that supports endangered, minority, and indigenous cultures throughout the world by preserving their writing systems. Brookes helped Boyd to research the alphabets on the obelisk, which include Nüshu, Tifinagh, the Samaritan alphabet, and the Cherokee syllabary.

“Due to shifting tides in politics, migration, armed conflict, and developmental pressures, many of these inscribed writing systems and languages are on the verge of disappearing,” Boyd wrote in a statement accompanying the exhibit. “Some are spoken or written by as few as five people.”

Boyd lives in Stowe, Vermont. He received his B.A. from Reed College and his M.F.A. in sculpture from the Yale University School of Art. He studied sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, France, and marble carving in Tinos, Greece, and in Pietrasanta, Italy.

Brattleboro Museum & Art Center

Dating back to the Ancient Egyptians and used across cultures for millennia, the obelisk is a reverential memorial, commemorating the dead, representing kings, and honoring gods. In pairing this ancient form with near-extinct languages, Scott Boyd is doing more than memorializing; he is calling attention to the fragility of cultural diversity.

Language is a powerful tool, and Boyd’s use of the words “Hello | Goodbye” in each of the world’s endangered alphabets draws out the emotional impact of the loss of cultures across the globe.

The most striking thing about these alphabets is the variety of sounds and rhythms humankind has shaped into written language, each system imparting the energy of its conception. Language serves as the living expression of a people’s communion with each other, handed down through the generations.

Mara Williams

Chief Curator,