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UVA and VAF Launch New Field School Initiative for Next Summer

Wednesday, June 17, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Alexandra Sanchez

A new University of Virginia (UVA) project in partnership with the Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) has received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to document and interpret buildings and landscapes, training a new generation of students in conducting the fieldwork necessary for documenting suppressed and erased architectural histories and integrating social justice commitments, while involving the relevant communities in the process.

Nelson, UVA’s vice provost for academic outreach, will lead the national three-year, $750,000 initiative to develop summer institutes, starting with three field schools, devoted to “Recovering Erased Histories,” as the project is called. 

“It is a great honor to have the support of the Mellon Foundation,” Nelson wrote in email, “in the long goal of better understanding the historic architecture and cultural landscapes of those communities who have lived in the margins of the American experience. So often their histories and their stories are not found in archives, so documenting their buildings, engaging their places, and recording their histories adds greater character to what we call historic, especially here in the American South.”

The Mellon grant will fund three different field schools for graduate and undergraduate students; the schools will differ in location and type of architectural content, but all will contribute to the goal of examining architectural relevance to social history. Nelson will head a committee comprising forum members who will review proposals from potential field-school academic directors experienced in this kind of work. They should have community connections and research interests in an area, enabling them to elicit support from a local partnering organization.

Each field school, starting next summer, will accept ten to fifteen students who will conduct their physical documentation and research over two summers for about four weeks each time, and use the third summer to process the data and produce a scholarly publication. The teams also will share their findings in a report for the local community with whom they will have worked.

The students will learn traditional and new methods used in this fieldwork, from making measured drawings and taking photographs to using the latest digital-capture and visualization techniques. They also will learn ethical guidelines and community engagement methods for working with residents in collecting oral histories.

To see full press release, see UVA Today

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