I’m not an archaeologist or an anthropologist or a preservationist, and I’ve studied history, but only recently begun to engage in public history. Thus, I need to get my game up as Lane Street Project moves from dreamy rumination to real work.
I’m reading Lynn Rainville’s Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia to start. Though the landscape, material culture, and history of the Charlottesville area are quite different than those of Wilson County, Rainville’s work illustrates best practices for assessing, cataloguing, and preserving historic Black cemeteries, and I’m both taking notes and brainstorming as I read.
“Gravestones can teach us lessons in American civics as told through portraits of individuals and their communities, depicted in the details found on their headstones. The storylines in these mortuary museums illustrate national values: the worth of the individual, the primacy of the family, the depth of religious beliefs, the importance of patriotism. … They can also demonstrate some of the darker aspects of our shared past, the legacies of slavery and segregation. Cemeteries are instructional spaces that, if read correctly, have much to teach us about our social and moral values and about our shared history.”