Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) announces the installation and opening of “Landscapes of Slavery and Segregation,” a multi-location, audio-visual exhibition on the interpretation and preservation of Virginia sites connected to segregation and slavery that have been reconstructed or abandoned. Organized by VFH’s Encyclopedia Virginia, the exhibition is part of Human/Ties, the 50th anniversary celebration of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) taking place in Charlottesville this month.
“The challenges of slavery and segregation are still relevant today, and their legacies are still very much a part of our landscape,” says Matthew Gibson, director of digital initiatives at VFH. “From the downtown mall to the University, this project will create broader public awareness of important sites and stories, as well as the efforts to preserve and interpret them.”
Audiences can experience audio and visual components of “Landscapes of Slavery and Segregation” throughout the month of September at three locations: Charlottesville’s downtown mall, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and the University of Virginia (UVA) Grounds.
Each location has corresponding mobile-accessible multimedia components with text, images, and voices that encourage us to question how we remember and memorialize the past, accessible at http://landscapes360.oncell.com/. Audio contributor Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, says, “As long as these spaces are there, it’s very hard to deny the presence of the people who lived there.”
- On the downtown mall across from the Free Speech Wall, viewers can observe large-scale, panoramic images created by Encyclopedia Virginia of extant and reconstructed Virginia slave dwellings. Audio components elaborate on how these sites are preserved and what role such places occupy in the discussion and interpretation of African American history. This installation was made possible by a partnership with LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph.
- At the Jefferson School, viewers can see photographs taken in 1963 by Gundars Osvalds of life in Charlottesville’s African American neighborhood of Vinegar Hill, just before it was razed and its residents relocated. Corresponding audio shares first-person recollections from Vinegar Hill residents pictured in Osvalds’ images and addresses the fact that the legacy of segregation, including neighborhood upheaval from urban renewal, is still alive in our experiences today. The photography exhibit was produced by the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
- At UVA Grounds, including the Academical Village, viewers can learn about the people, places, and stories related to early African American life at the University of Virginia—in particular the lives and legacies of enslaved laborers that until very recently had not been publicly acknowledge or memorialized. This project adds audio components to the Walking Tour created by UVA’s President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, which supported this project.
Project contributors include: Sara Bon-Harper, executive director of James Monroe’s Highland; Elizabeth Chew, vice president for museum programs at James Madison’s Montpelier; Scot French, director of public history and associate professor at the University of Central Florida; Jobie Hill, historic preservation architect and creator of the Slave House Database; Emma Lewis, team lead at UVA Medical Center and former resident of Vinegar Hill neighborhood; Marcus Martin, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity at UVA; Deborah McDowell, Alice Griffin professor of English at UVA and director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies; Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project; Delores Rankin, former resident of Vinegar Hill neighborhood; Matt Reeves, director of archaeology and landscape restoration at James Madison’s Montpelier; and Kirt von Daacke, co-chair of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University at UVA.
Audio and visual components of “Landscapes of Slavery and Segregation” were engineered by Peter Hedlund, lead technologist for Encyclopedia Virginia, and Miranda Bennett, Elliot Majerczyk, and Sarah McConnell of VFH’s With Good Reason radio program. Downtown mall images were installed by Kevin Cwalina and Will May.
Like all Human/Ties events, the “Landscapes of Slavery and Segregation” exhibit is free and open to the public. To learn more, visit http://humanties2016.com/event/virginia-landscapes-segregation-slavery/.