Archive for April, 2014

Week of 4/7

This week was a little tricky to navigate, and I did encounter a bit of a road block in terms of the progress of my research. Monday went well, as I got to interview Karen Watkins from Colonial Gardens over the phone and she provided me with great insight that is both helpful and interesting to my current interviews. However, Tuesday was a huge failure, in terms of what I had intended to retrieve from another phone interview with one of the owners from a recently closed B&B, The Boxwood Inn. When I called during our confirmed time, my subject was unable to accommodate my questions, as he had “forgotten” about our interview and in combination with lots of miscommunication, I realized very quickly that this attempt to conduct interview would not be successful. This set me off into a bit of a panic, just because I was a so set on having his oral history included in my project because he would have been able to provide some really great insight into the decline of the B&B business in Williamsburg and I had hoped that his story would have been really interesting in that way. Kate was really encouraging, despite this setback, and encouraged me to look forward to getting more phone interviews done and hopefully getting the Keanes’s oral history in the next week (although that is still TBD). Tomorrow, I have a phone interview scheduled with Denise Fleck from the Applewood B&B, which I hope will be just as successful as my past interviews and maybe even yield  potential for a more formal oral history.

I think the important thing to focus on, as Kate had told me, is that I still have options for oral history candidates and in combination with all of the data I have so far, I should still be able to complete my assignment and write a solid report for the WDP archive. Even if there’s just one oral history that is formally recorded, indexed, and transcribed, all of the pieces of the puzzle should come together. I think the time crunch is also a major obstacle, as this week has been especially stressful for my schedule (I’ve been prepping for a dance performance tomorrow) so I really hope that everything works out and falls into place.

Journal April 11,

Prior to this week, I had to advertise for the focus group which was April 9 at 7pm. I was lucky enough to make it into Student Happenings and received an email minutes later from a student who was interested in the project. Then Monday I had an interview with Jose Ribeiro at the James City County Zoning Department with Ally. During this interview, I gained much insight into the zoning of Kingsmill residential area and the resort. In addition to finding out about the zoning, I found out about what happened with the expansion of Kingsmill as well as the boardwalk that was going to be build. The expansion of Kingsmill was deferred since the developers decided to stop the proposal they previously presented. Unfortunately, I did not properly record the interview on one of the devices and the other was set in a mode that is not easy to convert. This was a mishap that really made me upset because I have had two successful interviews without any technical issues. Nevertheless, the interview was very beneficial because I was able to gain more contacts. After the interview, I met with Kate and went over the formal letters and was proud about the last draft. When we finalized the letter, I contacted the departments that I have been associated with and was able to reach different groups. The next morning I woke up to so many text from friends in regards to the project but many of those friends were graduates of the college. One response that I received was from a Williamsburg active resident and educator John Whitley who has worked with the Lemon Project on campus. Not only did was I contacted by Mr. Whitley but also some of my previous professors who have strong opinions on the topic of gated communities. Sadly to say, these professors were unable to attend or stated that they do not associate with anything pertaining to gated communities because it goes against their beliefs.

On April 9, I was nervous the entire day because I have never did anything like this at the college. Kate was helpful the entire way and it was great to have the support of my piers. Before the actual focus group, I had the opportunity to meet with Kate and organize all of the documents and discuss the logistics. Soon after I met with Kate, I spoke to Kari who helped me a lot with reviewing my questions. I was able to add more questions and restructure others.

When it was time for the discussion, I only had Mr. and Mrs. Whitley. I felt very disappointed because I expected a lot more people to come. There were people who helped from the media department who decided to stay as well as Andrea. Even though there were a decent amount of people, I went upstairs and spoke to some friends who found the topic intriguing and they came down some minutes later. Although there were late comers, the people who were there from the beginning contributed a lot to the “icebreaker” question. To my surprise there were no residents of Kingsmill at the focus group which turned out okay. After delving into the second question, the conversation seemed to take on a life of its own. By the end of the discussion other questions presented itself. One of the biggest questions was pertaining to gated communities in other countries. It appears that other countries want/need gated communities for safety reason while the gated communities in America seem to possess other amenities that the “wealthy” seek. Another question was in regards to how long Kingsmill would stay a gated community due to the fact that there appears to be a gated community within the gated community. Xanterra has changed many things in Kingsmill. One of the changes is that residents do not have open access to the amenities like before. Seemingly, in order for the residents to indulge in these amenities they must pay a membership fee. I presented this question to Mr. Whitley. The Whitley’s were not the only people who contributed but also students. They explained what a “safe” community William and Mary is since people are attracted to gated communities because they believe they are safe. Nonetheless, we found that feeling that we are safe can make us more susceptible to other unwanted things.

This week was truly beneficial yet, I need to speak with more current residents or past residents of Kingsmill to understand why they decided to live there. Also, the more I delved into the focus group, the more I relied on my colleagues. Andrea was able to stay for majority of the focus group and contributed to the discussion. I never thought about the fact that there aren’t street lights in Kingsmill or finding out more about the resort. On other hand, I have received assistance and the opinions of my colleagues in regards to restructuring my project which has helped me improve how I approach a specific question or task.

Week of 3/31

This week was split half and half between some really good things and things I should probably work on in the run-up to the due date. Starting with the good, I finally got some formal interviews down this week! On Thursday, I traveled out to Fred Boelt’s house in Toano and interviewed him about his childhood home and the Williamsburg area. Hearing about the area around campus and how it’s changed in his time was really cool. And as cool as I thought he was before, Fred is actually way, way cooler. His house dates to the 1800s and he owns roughly 8 peacocks because of course he does. His interview provided some good perspective about Williamsburg and town-gown relations as it relates to the three-person rule.

I also interviewed Amanda Morrow, a senior who violates the three-person rule currently. Maybe it was just because she answered concisely, but the interview ran much shorter than I was anticipating at only 22 minutes. Even the very chatty Fred clocked in at 47 minutes. My list of prepared questions was already lengthy; I think I’ll have to work on coming up with more on the spot. In addition to those two oral histories, I also had two informational interviews with one student who serves on the planning commission and another who just lives off-campus in a normal house (a point of comparison to Amanda). Just getting started on interviews lifted a huge mental weight. I’ll have to keep at it next week as well.

Of course, the secondary research took a back seat to these matters again. I really need to get to that soon. Hopefully I can also make contact with some non-student renters as well, in addition to some resident homeowners. The number in the directory for Bill Dell is apparently a different Bill Dell than served on the Focus Group (or else he just doesn’t want to give me the time of day at all) and Flora Adams hasn’t called back yet. I’ll follow up with her soon.

Overall, a productive-ish week, but I feel like I won’t feel productive until this project is done.



Week of 3/31

So late on my journal, but last week was a little frustrating. I was able to lock in some confirmed interview times early Friday morning via phone tag and frantic emailing (which is why I’m posting now….), but I do have a phone interview to follow up with Karen Watkins from Colonial Gardens tomorrow at 12:30pm. My interview with Craig Reeves on Wednesday was very informative and I received a number of useful documents pertaining to the B&B community gatherings in Williamsburg. Mr. Reeves and his wife, Laura, were very helpful in providing other contacts in this network of businesses and their different perspective on hospitality should provide some really great points for my research. Ms. Watkins was unavailable for an interview at the time of my arrival on site at Colonial Gardens, but I was still able to tour the B&B and talk to her employees about the business at large. I hope to follow up with some points they made during our phone interview tomorrow. Looking forward, I have a preliminary interview scheduled with Steve Zareski on Tuesday at 6pm from the recently closed Boxwood Inn B&B. I received the Boxwood’s name from Mr. and Mrs. Reeves’ and I think their story could provide a new angle on the state of the tourism/hospitality industry in Williamsburg, specifically with the slow decline of B&Bs in recent years. I have high hopes for being able to schedule a formal oral history with Mr. and Mrs. Zareski, so I hope everything will fall into place accordingly. I’m still having trouble with securing a formal oral history interview with the Keanes, but I will keep trying!

April 4, 2014

This week has been draining. I had so many interviews and stuff for the research. After receiving approval for my focus group, I had to create an advertisement. I am not great with making flyers that are enticing so that is somewhat in a stand still until I can find enough time out my day to focus on it. Monday, I noticed that James City County was having a planning commission meeting and one of the topics was the expansion of kingsmill which is a continuation from March’s meeting. This Wednesday meeting was not what I expected because there weren’t any people there except the board members. However, I was able to set up an interview with someone in the zoning department next Monday. Also, Thursday was my first interview and it was with Michael McGurk. It was a wonderful experience because I was able to go into Kingsmill and had interesting insight into the community. Prior to interacting with anyone from Kingsmill, I had assumptions that have since changed. Mr. McGurk spoke about the history of Kingsmill and its current state. The changes in owners of Kingsmill have caused there to be many changes in facilities and community. On the other hand, my interview friday with Mary Schilling was the polar opposite of McGurk. She did not have the same interest in the current events that have taken place between some residents and Xanterra. I found this week to be successful but very exhausting.

4/4 Work Journal

I was not able to be as productive in terms of my research that I would have liked. This week is a testament to the technique of getting things done early and to plan for the unexpected. I now need to kick it into high gear to get everything rolling, especially since I was unable to get a single thing done this week.

Week of March 31

This week was not as exciting as last week and productive in different ways than I had expected. I finally received a phone number for Judge Samuel Powell on Wednesday and since have had strep throat and cannot speak to him on the phone due to a horrible sounding voice. The voice is subsiding and I think I will be able to contact him sometime this weekend, hopefully tomorrow!

I was able to work through the City Planning Office and then the James City County courthouse to get the contact information for retired Judge Powell who spearheaded the Powhatan statue project. I was told by Debbie, the woman who gave me his phone number that he was very happy to talk to me about the project, thus this gives me hope that I will be able to interview him for the project. I hope to establish ties with Judge Powell tomorrow and set up an interview for the next week if possible.

Other than working to get Judge Powell’s phone number I supported Loetta in an interview on Thursday with Michael McGurk about the Kingsmill United group which turned out to be a fascinating interview.

Week Ending April 4, 2014

It is safe to say that this week has not gone exactly as I had planned – but that does not mean that the week was not productive.  Ideally, I wanted to have my oral history interviews complete and ready for transcription by now, but that has not happened.  This is in part because it has been challenging to secure an appropriate candidate, but also because I’ve realized that these things take time.  I think it is important for me to try to cultivate a relationship of some sort before I request a formal interview.  I found it helpful to have an informal meeting (in-person) during which I can outline my project goals and get an understanding of what the candidate can contribute to the project.  In turn, the candidate can have an opportunity to meet me and give thoughtful consideration as to whether or not he/she wants to participate in the project.   On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet with a fascinating individual, Bruce Larson, who is a civilian archeologist employed by the Department of Defense (Navy) to oversee all cultural resource identification, preservation and mitigation efforts in the Atlantic region.  (Thank you, Dr. Lelievre, for supporting me during this meeting.)   Mr. Larson has agreed to be interviewed for my project and I am confident that his input will enrich my research, as well as provide valuable information for future WDP researchers.   Additionally, Mr. Larson has indicated a willingness to try to get me access to another site somewhat similar to Magruder, Charles’ Corner.  That effort involves a considerable amount of planning, mostly on his part, for which I am most grateful.   The biggest surprise of the week was an email I received from Bishop William Dawson of Mount Gilead Baptist Church.  Finally, after an entire month of silence, he responded to my request for an opportunity to meet.  Bishop Dawson has agreed to review my research proposal and information about the WDP.  He has tentatively agreed to meet with me the week of April 14th and to (potentially) be interviewed (he will be out of town for the next week beginning tomorrow).   Brian Palmer, my other potential interview candidate, has been out of town this week.  We will touch base about scheduling an interview next week, upon his return.   Beyond efforts to secure oral history interviews, I have worked on my bibliography, to cull out items I will not use and identify the ones that I think will be most  helpful.   Today, I will support Ryan’s interview with Fred Boelt by indexing for him.  I look forward to seeing Mr. Boelt again and hearing more of his stories.  Next week, I will interview Bruce Larson and continue efforts to schedule interviews, develop secondary resources and organize my paper.

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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