A great deal has happened since I last wrote about
Archaeology, Shockoe Bottom, and the Ballpark to move our City towards a better relationship with its archaeological and cultural resources. A lot of this energy has come from the “Before It’s Too Late” Symposium held on March 29th, which generated a lot of public and professional interest in revisiting Richmond’s care of archaeological resources, better promoting the opportunities for research and public engagement with those resources, and for using the RevitalizeRVA proposal as an example for how to engage and work with the City to ensure our archaeological heritage is protected.
RVArchaeology The primary outcome of this symposium is the creation of a new local organization called RVArchaeology. I am serving as a member of the Steering Committee, along with Dr. Kim Allen and Ellen Chapman, which has been charged with getting things off the ground. We held a public meeting on May 3rd, where archaeologists and members of the public met to discuss the types of things we’d like to accomplish. Among these goals were working with the City to develop better laws to protect cultural resources, promoting the archaeology that has been done and that could be done in Richmond, and serving as a liaison between archaeologists and the public to ensure excavations that are conducted include public engagement and interpretation. We have also started to get some media traction, and have been asked to provide commentary on Richmond archaeology in general and more specifically as it relates to Shockoe Bottom. Ellen and I recently spoke at the Council for Virginia Archaeologists meeting about archaeology in Richmond this past month, and the three of us appeared on the RVAOpenSource on 97.3 WRIR in Richmond (
Scroll to the OpenSourceRVA and hit the play button to listen!).
Shockoe Bottom and RVArchaeology While RVArchaeology has larger goals beyond engaging with the RevitalizeRVA development project, we also consider it a perfect example of why Richmond needs to improve its laws about archaeological mitigation. We have made several efforts to engage with the Mayor’s office and City Council. Our first effort to engage was by gathering feedback from archaeologists in response to the
Mayor’s proposed archaeological plan for archaeology in Shockoe Bottom. We sent this to the Mayor’s office, City Council members, and entered it into the public record by presenting it at the City Council meeting a few weeks ago. While we are encouraged by the Mayor’s development of a plan, archaeologists had a number of concerns regarding the nature of the mitigation, the timeline, and other details about the plan. We have made an effort to communicate with the Mayor to voice our conerns and to work with him to make the plan more palatable, but have not received a response. Our conerns have been heightened through recent reports that the Mayor’s office is actively avoiding triggering the Section 106 Review process. So, tomorrow, at 10 am on the corner of 17th and Grace Street, we will be holding a press conference to publicly introduce our organization, and to list our questions about the plan. While I won’t be able to attend, I would encourage those of you who are interested in supporting a more thorough and responsible approach to Richmond’s archaeology to show your support. Please read our Press Release here.
Beyond the Ballpark It’s also worth noting that this work may contribute to an important outcome:
recent reports show that the Mayor no longer has the votes in the City Council for the plan to be completed. The opposition appears to be primarily related to the Mayor’s lack of transparency and planning. This most certainly was the case with the creation of the archaeology plan, which only happened after public concern about how archaeological resources were being protected and mitigated. This only demonstrates the value that an integrated City Archaeology plan, review board, and better City laws could provide to a City that is going to continue to develop and grow over the coming decades. With that in mind, our work with RVArchaeology will not end even if the proposed Shockoe Bottom plan falls through. We are committed to using this as a stepping stone towards creating a public dialogue among citizens, the Council, and the Mayor’s office to ensure that the City incorporates archaeology into the public planning for City development. We will hold another meeting on Saturday, May 31 at 10 am at the Black History and Culture Museum at 00 Clay St., and we are planning a Field Trip to Alexandria to visit with their City Archaeologist and observe their City Archaeology program in action. Please visit our website and join if you are interested!