Tag Archives: Virginia

Two National Conferences Coming Up on Interpreting Slavery at Historic Sites

Slave cabin with contemporary sculptures at Whitney Plantation, Louisiana.

Slave cabin with contemporary sculptures at Whitney Plantation, Louisiana.

If you’re interested in interpreting slavery, you’ll have a tough time choosing what to do this fall. At the same time that AASLH is holding its annual meeting in Detroit, Monticello and the Slave Dwelling Project are hosting outstanding national conferences.

On September 17 from 10 am to 12:30 pm, Monticello will host a public summit on race and the legacy of slavery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Historians, descendants of those enslaved at Monticello, cultural leaders, and activists will engage in a far-ranging dialogue on the history of slavery and its meaning in today’s conversations on race, freedom, and equality. Participants include Marian Wright Edelman (Children’s Defense Fund), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Harvard University), Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard University), Jon Meacham (Random House), and Bree Newsome (filmmaker and community activist). Registration is free but seating is limited. For more information, visit monticello.org/neh.

On September 19-21 the Third Annual Slave Dwelling Project Conference will be held in Columbia, South Carolina. The conference brings together incredibly diverse perspectives, from preservationists and archaeologists to writers and film producers, to understand how these modest homes can change the traditional narrative of American history. Speakers include Mary Battle (Avery Center for African American Research), Lana Burgess (McKissick Museum), Toni Carrier (Lowcountry Africana), Elizabeth Chew (James Madison’s Montpelier), Latoya Devezin (Austin History Center), Regina Faden (Historic St. Mary’s City), Fielding Freed (Historic Columbia), Tammy Gibson (travel historian and blogger), Jennifer Hurst-Wender (Preservation Virginia), Brent Leggs (National Trust), Betsy Newman (South Carolina ETV), David Serxner (Historic Hope Plantation), Rhondda Robinson Thomas (Clemson University), and Robert Weyeneth (University of South Carolina). Full registration (which includes some meals) is $250 with an early registration price of $235 (deadline August 19). More information available at SlaveDwellingProject.org.


Interpreting Slavery at Historic Sites Workshop on May 25

George Mason's Gunston Hall, Virginia.

George Mason’s Gunston Hall, Virginia.

George Mason’s Gunston Hall in Virginia will become a hands-on laboratory to explore how to create a comprehensive and conscientious interpretation of slavery at an historic site at a one-day workshop on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm (right before the AAM annual meeting).  You’ll learn how to better connect and extend your site’s interpretation of its history of slavery and help staff and volunteers achieve a greater understanding of difficult knowledge and complicated emotions.  Registration is $90 and includes morning refreshments, lunch, and a post-workshop reception.  For more details and to register, visit http://bit.ly/SlaveryWorkshop.

The workshop will be led by Kristin Gallas, co-editor of Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites and includes presentations by Continue reading

Reconstructing a Lost “Field Quarter”

In this 34-second time-lapse video, James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia constructs a log “field quarter” (a dwelling for enslaved field workers).  It’s first constructed in a building to cut and fit all the pieces in a protected place during winter, then re-assembled in the field on a beautiful spring day in 2015.  It’s now on the exact spot where the foundations for a house were uncovered through archaeology (if you look carefully to the horizon on the left, you’ll see the Visitor Center).

Montpelier is in the midst of reconstructing many of the lost buildings associated with the enslaved African community, using archaeological and documentary evidence assembled over the past decade.  Their major project is the South Yard, six buildings next to the Madison’s mansion, which will be completed in the next few years, thanks to a generous gift from David Rubenstein.

A Handy Way to Keep Table Tents Neat

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At a recent board meeting of the Montpelier Foundation, the organization that manages James Madison’s Montpelier, I discovered they had developed a nice device to keep table tents neat.  I often create table tents or nameplates on my computer, folding a letter-sized sheet in half.  Despite using cover stock to give them some heft, they still manage to sag and wilt, not only making them hard to read but creating a sad-looking appearance for a meeting.

Montpelier tapered a small block of wood to fit within the table tent, attaching a short brass screw at the back.  Using a small “super-strong” magnet, the table tent sticks to the screw on the block.  Everything looks sharp for the meeting and the blocks can be easily reused (and they never break, even if you drop them).  Another great idea from the carpenters at Montpelier.


Collecting Memories from Visitors

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Maymont, a Gilded Age estate that’s now a public park in Richmond, Virginia, has an extensive exhibit on the domestic servants in the first half of the twentieth century.  To continue to collect stories about and remember the many people who work in domestic service, the exhibit includes a small area that invites family, friends, and neighbors to share their memories with a label that reads:

Sharing Memories

In creating this painting–a symbolic tribute to the individuals who worked as domestic employees at Maymont–I felt special gratitude to my own loved ones.  My grandmother, mother, two aunts, and three uncles were all once employed on the Dooley staff.

Was there a significant person in your life who  Continue reading

Virginia Turns Penal Colony into Art Colony

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I recently had an opportunity to visit the Occoquan Workhouse Prison, an early 20th century federal prison in northern Virginia, which was transformed by Fairfax County in 2008 into the Workhouse Arts Center, a collection of 100 artist studios and galleries.  Once regarded as a model for reform-minded incarceration with open dormitory-style residences accompanied by honest work on the surrounding country farm, its image was soon tarnished by the imprisonment and force-feeding of the women who were picketing the White House for suffrage–which helped turn public opinion against the Wilson Administration.  I had long known about this infamous event and wanted to get a better sense of the conditions.  At the small museum on site, I learned much about the prison’s history and the struggle for woman’s suffrage, however, I also learned that Continue reading

Kat Imhoff named president of James Madison’s Montpelier

Kat Imhoff at James Madison’s Montpelier.

The Montpelier Foundation has appointed Katherine L. “Kat” Imhoff as president effective January 1, 2013.  The Foundation manages James Madison’s Montpelier, where Madison was born, developed his ideas for the Constitution, and retired after his presidency.  Imhoff returns to Virginia after a successful five-year tenure as State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Montana, where she led the organization’s Montana Legacy Project – the purchase of more than 300,000 acres for nearly $500 million – representing the largest conservation project ever undertaken by The Nature Conservancy.

“Montpelier is a place for making authentic, tangible connections with the past that can inspire us to build on James Madison’s legacy of constitutional self-government,” said Gregory May, Chairman of The Montpelier Foundation. “Kat Imhoff is a respected preservationist with demonstrated ability to generate support for visionary advances like those Montpelier now is prepared to undertake.”

Before she went to Montana, Imhoff was Continue reading

HBO CEO named Mt. Vernon CEO; A Step Backwards IMHO

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Today, Curtis G. Viebranz becomes the president and chief executive officer of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Unfortunately, this decision by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is a step backward for its mission, history, education, preservation, and ironically, women, too.  Viebranz succeeds James C. Rees III, who retired in June.  Here’s an excerpt from the official announcement:

Viebranz brings to Mount Vernon more than twenty years of experience at major multinational Internet and cable enterprises, including a successful tenure as president of HBO International, the global arm of Time Warner’s Home Box Office unit. Prior to that, as Time Warner turned its attention to digital distribution strategies, Viebranz was tapped to serve as the first president of Time Inc. Multimedia. During his seventeen-year career at Time Warner and its predecessor company, Time Inc., Viebranz built an impressive resume, also serving as president of Time Inc. Europe and HBO Video.

After departing Time Warner, Viebranz helped to launch Continue reading

African American Historic Place Demolished in Virginia, Despite Protests

The Masonic Lodge in Hobson, recently destroyed by the City of Suffolk, Virginia. In this 2002 photo, then-Suffolk Councilman E. Dana Dickens III is seen with Hobson resident Mary Ellen Hill, who was one of the two women arrested Monday on misdemeanor charges during an unsuccessful attempt to save the former Masonic Lodge building, seen behind them. Virginian-Pilot file photo.

A Masonic Lodge that was the centerpiece of Hobson, an early 20th century African American waterman’s community in Virginia, was recently demolished by the City of Suffolk, despite protests from the local community and standing in front of the bulldozers.  The 1950 Masonic Lodge served as a community meeting place, general store, school, philanthropic organization, and rallying point for political activism in the village of Hobson, which was recently placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register.  Only portions of downtown Suffolk are locally protected as historic districts.

According to the October 25, 2011 edition of the Virginian-Pilot:

In a last-ditch effort to save a historic building from the bulldozer Monday morning, two community activists placed themselves inside a circa-1912 former Masonic Lodge in the rural village of Hobson and pleaded with police to send a city wrecking crew away.  Instead, police arrested Continue reading