Before It’s Too Late: An Education Symposium on the History and Archaeology of Shockoe Bottom

Posted by on Mar 23, 2014 in Research and Engagement | No Comments

TooLateOver the past few weeks, I have been working with a local advisory committee to put together a symposium in Richmond addressing the historical importance of Shockoe Bottom, the area where the mayor has proposed a large development project, and the archaeological implications of the project. The symposium is on Saturday, March 29th at the Richmond Public Library, and will feature a full slate of speakers in the morning who will discuss the area’s history and the archaeology of Lumpkin’s Jail, while the afternoon will include a presentation on the Section 106 Process and a panel discussion on ways that Richmond can improve its relationship with its cultural resources. I will be serving as a panelist in this final discussion.

You can learn more about the panel at its website, and regsiter to attend. I want to emphasize that this is not a symposium that has a political agenda: our intent is not to be pro or anti ballpark, it is to provide an opportunity to educate the public about the historical significance of Shockoe (a conversation that will extend beyond its importance in the slave trade), and about the Section 106 Process, how it works, and what it means for archaeology in Richmond.

Why this Matters

While I’m excited about the first half of the symposium, I’m more excited about the second half. First, I think it is important for everyone, citizens and developers, to understand how Section 106 works so that it can be implemented effectively and in a way that allows Richmond to improve its City for the future while being respectful of the past and its citizens who are descended from it. Shockoe Bottom is only a part of this discussion: Richmond’s own laws are not adequate to protect its vast archaeological resources: the fact that the City would not require excavations at this site without federal involvement speeks to that end.

Second, I’m excited to have an opportunity to discuss the merits of archaeology beyond simply “protecting” heritage sites. The panel will include former City Archaeologist of Alexandria, Pam Cressey, and I hope that we’ll be able to demonstrate not only the merits of the City protecting heritage sites for their historical value, but also how the process of doing archaeology can be an educational benefit for the members of the City.

Lastly, I am hopeful that the conversation and information that will be shared at this symposium will provide some momentum towards developing new ordinances and a program that will champion the protection of Richmond’s archaeology. There are countless examples of City Archaeology programs, and Richmond is a prime candidate.

Looking forward to seeing you there!