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History

Union Presbyterian Seminary demolishes one of Northside’s oldest houses, dating to 1790s

The 230-year-old McGuire Cottage, one of Northside’s oldest homes, is no longer standing due to what its owner, Union Presbyterian Seminary, claims is “repentance” for the benefit the seminary received from the labor of enslaved persons.

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The 230-year-old McGuire Cottage, one of Northside’s oldest homes, is no longer standing due to what its owner, Union Presbyterian Seminary, claims is “repentance” for the benefit the seminary received from the labor of enslaved persons. The house was once home to a Confederate surgeon – also cited as a reason for demolition – though the seminary says it has no plans for the tract of land on which the house stood.

Critics say the home had a great historic significance and calls to preserve the home by moving it were met with complaints that using staff resources to research grants for such a move would be “prohibitive.” Several publications say the demolition will also pave the way for additional development on the property.

While recognition of the wrongs of our nation is warranted, one wonders if half of Richmond wouldn’t be flattened by the seminary’s logic of demolishing structures tied to those who were on the wrong side of history.

From Richmond BizSense:

One of the oldest homes in Northside is no more.

The 1800s-era Westwood house, also known as McGuire Cottage, was demolished this week at the behest of Union Presbyterian Seminary.

It owns the so-called Westwood Tract where the structure had stood for two centuries — dwarfed in recent years by the newly built Canopy at Ginter Park apartments.

Seminary spokesman Mike Frontiero said its board of trustees voted last year to demolish the structure, originally the home of Confederate surgeon Hunter Holmes McGuire, “as recognition of and in repentance for the resourcing provided to the seminary through the labor of enslaved persons.”

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Downtown

The Valentine receives major national grant to upgrade archive storage facilities

The Valentine was awarded the largest grant of any other humanities project in Virginia and is in the top 8% of the 245 grant recipients across the country.

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On April 13th, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced a grant awarding $408,761 to The Valentine for new collection storage materials. The grant will go toward the Valentine Moment Campaign, a years-long effort to modernize the museum’s storage facilities and strengthen the presentation of Richmond history by analyzing all 1.6 million objects in its collection.

The Valentine received the full amount requested with a 2:1 matching requirement after demonstrating its commitment to preserving local history, addressing complex social issues, and engaging diverse audiences. The grant will support a $1.6 million project to purchase and install compact storage cabinetry and fixtures in the main museum building, under the umbrella of the larger $16 million Valentine Moment Campaign.

“The Valentine Moment Campaign will fortify our museum to serve Richmonders for generations to come. The NEH’s generous grant is a crucial part of our efforts,” said Valentine Director Bill Martin. “This infrastructure upgrade allows us to safely store important historical objects, and our goal is to use these objects to engage, challenge and inspire our community.”

The Valentine was awarded the largest grant of any other humanities project in Virginia and is in the top 8% of the 245 grant recipients across the country.

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Education

U of R professors awarded $325K NEH Grant for open-source tool to analyze historic images

Statistics professor Taylor Arnold and digital humanities professor Lauren Tilton have received a nearly $325K ($324,693) grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a project to build open-source software for collecting and analyzing digital images.

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Statistics professor Taylor Arnold and digital humanities professor Lauren Tilton have received a nearly $325K ($324,693) grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a project to build open-source software for collecting and analyzing digital images.

Arnold and Tilton created and co-direct Photogrammar, an interactive photo collection focusing on the Great Depression era. The open-access, web-based tool allows users to easily navigate and engage with a collection of 170,000 photographs taken between 1935 and 1943.

The NEH Digital Humanities award will support a project to make the Photogrammar software available to allow anyone with a set of digital images and associated information to create — with no prior programming experience — their own digital public humanities projects.

“The goal of the software is to use interactive data visualization and AI to open up new ways of exploring and understanding digitized collections of images,” said Tilton. “We draw on methods from data science, spatial analysis, natural language processing, and computer vision to provide additional context and information to digital images — context that helps people browse and interpret the materials.”

“We are excited to create this open-source tool that will allow anyone to have this same experience with their own collections,” said Arnold. “We envision people using this software for a variety of different applications, from documentary photography, historic newspapers, and digitized medieval manuscripts.”

In addition to the software, the grant-funded project will produce six case studies that will model and highlight how the software can be used in a variety of different domains, data sizes, and types of institutions including archives, libraries, and museums. Extensive tutorials and documentation will be developed to assist in making the free software broadly accessible to the general public by 2025.

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History

The Valentine Museum and “Reclaiming the Monument” receive historic grant

The Valentine Museum and Reclaiming the Monument are the recipients of a $670,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Monuments Project.

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The Valentine Museum and Reclaiming the Monument are the recipients of a $670,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Monuments Project. The Monuments Project is an unprecedented $250 million commitment by the Mellon Foundation to transform the nation’s commemorative landscape by supporting public projects that more completely and accurately represent the multiplicity and complexity of American stories.

The Valentine has collaborated with Reclaiming the Monument founders and artist Dustin Klein (Technical Director) and Alex Criqui (Creative Director) to support the “Recontextualizing Richmond” public art project. This project, which will take place in 2022, will focus on the creation of a series of temporary light-based artworks addressing issues of historical, racial, and social justice in Richmond, Virginia, and the surrounding capital region.

“The Richmond story is America’s story. This project will bring new stories to light and encourage us to take a fresh look at our City’s history,” said Bill Martin, Director of the Valentine Museum. “We are excited to support the work of Reclaiming the Monument over the coming year. Richmond’s history has national significance and this grant from the Mellon Foundation recognizes the important opportunity we have to elevate it.”

Both organizations look forward to bringing visuals, conversations, and dialogue to the Richmond community, using primary source materials from the Valentine’s collection and other historical resources. For the Valentine, this is a unique opportunity to gather community feedback and support future projects at the museum.

The light installations, are intended to raise awareness about the neglected histories in our community as it continues to grapple with the complicated legacies of our past and how its telling has been used to shape and influence our present and future.

The collaborative nature of the project will create a greater dialogue between grassroots organizations, artists, historical institutions, and the general public that will lay a foundation for how public art involving historical memory can be created in a way that is inclusive and community-driven.

“It is our hope that by providing an opportunity for our community to engage with a more complete telling of our history through the power of public art that we will be able to help our city heal and move towards a future rooted in peace, justice, and equality,” said Alex Criqui, Creative Director for Reclaiming the Monument.

Recontextualizing Richmond will also produce educational resources that will be accessible to educators and students.

Additional information and details related to Reclaiming the Monument installations will be made available in early 2022. The Valentine and Reclaiming the Monument are committed to ensuring a safe and engaging event series for the Richmond community.

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