Week of 4/14

This past week was casually productive, but it has set the stage for me to really kick it into high gear this week. On Wednesday, I indexed for Ally while she interviewed Denise Fleck at her B&B on Richmond Road. It was interesting to see some of the same issues with development and zoning appear in her interview that could make their way into my final paper as well. The overlap/interconnectedness of the issues was kind of cool to note.

On Thursday, I interviewed Subject X in Swem with Andrea as my indexer. While I still obtained a lot of useful information on recording about his life and the workings of the city (planning commission), he divulged a lot less once the record button was pressed. In our informational interview a week prior, he was very forthcoming about both the good and the bad of Williamsburg, the city council, the three-person rule, etc. but this time he was much more of a booster. He also used more academic terms and careful phrasing. Only by reading between the lines and referring back to last week’s interview was I able to fully understand and contextualize what he was saying. I suppose his sensitive position on the council may have influenced him on that, but it was a little awkward nevertheless.

I also interview Stewart Goddin tomorrow. I also began outlining my paper this week; this is the hardest part of writing for me, just putting everything in place. A little more secondary research and I should be good to go with it.

4/18 Journal

This week I have really kicked it into high gear. I completed a majority of my secondary research and feel ready to dive into writing the paper! I met with a potential interviewee (we are setting up a time for this upcoming week for an interview) and I think he is going to be a great asset to the WDP and my research. He has been apart of the congregation from prior to the building of the synagogue and remembers every aspect of its creation and growth. I was scheduled to meet with a rabbi on Wednesday morning, but when I arrived at the synagogue, all of the doors were locked and it did not seem like anyone was around. I e-mailed my contact and she apologized for not telling me about a doorbell on one of the doors. We are going to try and reschedule.

I am both excited and nervous for this interview, mostly because it is so close to the deadline.

Journal April 18

This week was full of surprises. Although I have had many interviews, I have not been able to upload to the drive. When I came to class Monday, Professor Lelievre had already spoke to the Media Center and had it uploaded. Also, I had a chance to index for Rose which was quite exciting. Judge Powell knew a lot of history about Williamsburg and was the legal council for Anheuser-Busch in its early years. He was able to tell me more information than I had ever expected. Even though I did not conduct an interview this week, I received numerous contacts from Andrea as well as Judge Powell. Then I began to edit my focus group video which I am very proud of the final cut. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to do much research because I had to take the time to focus on other classes. My weekend shall be filled with transcribing and research.

Week ending 04/18/2014

On Friday, April 11, I joined Dr. Lelievre and archaeologist Bruce Larson at the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station for a site tour of Charles’ Corner and other Reservation sites.  It’s hard to imagine a vibrant community once thrived where now there is only forest.  Stepping in to the space, seeing evidence of life in the artifacts left behind (a cemetery, a patch of exotic flowers, remnants of a cast iron stove, a rusted out washtub) confirm that human life was here once.  Mr. Larson helped me to see the topography in a new way by pointing out flat areas that would not naturally be flat (indicating humans had graded the area for a homesite or garden or what have you), road beds, and the like.   Because the sites have been vacant for so long, the forest has completely taken over and, interestingly, rare native plants can now be spotted along the forest floor  The people are gone and the flora and fauna couldn’t be happier.  Except for the two stow-away deer ticks that came home with me, the visit was everything I hoped for and more.  If I were at a different stage in life, I could see myself really embracing that kind of work.

Prior to heading to the Naval Weapons Station, I drove to Grove to photograph the street-side memorial marker and to visit Mount Gilead Baptist Church again.  I wanted to take a picture of the corner stone that commemorated the Church’s origin in Magruder.  As it happened, there was a church member on site, Sheila Jefferson, who gave me permission to photograph the corner stone.  She also shared a few minutes of time with me, talking about the church and some of her members.  She gave me the name of Magruder survivor, Elder Roland Wallace, and suggested that he might be a good resource.  I reached out to Elder Wallace and left a message, but I haven’t heard back.  Given the looming deadline for the paper, I must forego any further efforts to contact him at this time.   Additionally, I have not received any further correspondence from Bishop Dawson.  At this point, it looks like my information on MGBC will come from the Church’s website and what I can put together from the historic record.

I had a ‘kick me’ moment this week, too.  In that, I mean that I missed an opportunity that I would otherwise have had if I had followed my instinct.  When going over Reverend Ward’s papers very early in this process, I came across the name of Ann Little and wondered to myself how she knew Reverend Ward.   Much to my regret, I did not follow up on that notion.  I learned just last week that Ann Little is Reverend Ward’s daughter and she is the one that donated the papers to Special Collections.  I found a telephone number, called and left a message.  I did not receive a call back and thought that I must have the wrong Ann Little.  As it turned out however, she was out of town and didn’t get my message until this week.  She called me and seems very excited to talk about Magruder with me.  I am meeting her for an informal interview tomorrow morning.  Had I acted sooner, I would have been able to undertake a formal oral history interview.

The rest of my WDP time this week has been spent transcribing the Larson interview.  There are 1.25 hours of audio to transcribe and it is time consuming.  I should finish that tomorrow.  Beyond that, I am ready to go for the paper.  This weekend I will dive in and write…write…write!

Week of 4/14

This week has been extremely productive, I went back to Swem and the Rockefeller Library and collected information about changes in street name and locations over time. I also conducted an oral interview with Judge Powell which was extremely informative for both myself and Loetta who indexed for me.

I am still waiting to hear from the social studies coordinator for JCC but am talking to  the deputy coordinator and may have an interview set up for Monday, I am waiting to hear back from her. I have copied the materials from the text books and sources they use online for Native American studies as well as the SOL information the state provides them.

I have started writing my paper and hope to finish a draft by Monday so I have a lot of time to edit. I plan on continuing to work on that this evening.

Week of 4/14

I’m writing this post in anticipation of me going out of town tomorrow and therefore unable to conduct any on-site WDP work for the rest of the week, but as a whole things have been a bit better and productive. I was grateful to have scheduled two oral history interviews by Monday, only one of which were able to be completed, due to interviewee scheduling conflicts. Karen Watkins emailed me Tuesday afternoon before our scheduled interview to reschedule due to a migraine, which was a bit of a setback. Nevertheless, I was still able to conduct an interview with Denise Fleck from the Applewood today with Ryan as an indexer. She was very welcoming into her home and her insight as a newcomer to the B&B industry still provided great insight that stands in contrast with many of the owners I’ve already talked to. Due to time constraints, I’m not completely sure if I will be able to conduct a formal oral history recording with Mrs. Watkins at this point in time, but I’m glad that I have at least one oral history to document for the archives. It’s unfortunate that these last-minute cancellations have been happening so often, especially since these interviewees have been so cooperative and engaged with my work leading up to this point. I think if someone were to pick up my project in the future, hopefully they will have better luck than me with getting in touch with these owners!

Next week, I plan to begin the process of drafting my final paper. In addition to the secondary research I have available, I’m hoping to come up with a cohesive “framework” of what the hospitality industry looks like. As we discussed last class, it may be near impossible to find a straightforward answer to my questions, but I hope to at least showcase the many facets of this community through my work.

Week of April 7th

This week was relatively productive. I discovered the name of the sculptor for the Powhatan statue Karen [Adda]. I gleaned this information from video footage of the statue unveiling ceremony in 2007 posted on youtube. This was an awesome source of  information about descriptive, spacial, and decorative aspects of the ceremony. I contacted Barry Trott at the Williamsburg Public Library to see if he could assist me in finding Karen’s contact information or if he had any knowledge about the statue that might be helpful.

Under Mr. Trott’s recommendation I contacted Professor McGlennon (W&M) who also serves on Williamsburg/James City County’s Board of Supervisors and served when the statue was proposed, unveiled, and currently sits while the second statue is being discussed. Professor McGlennon was very helpful and I may consider speaking with him about the statue. He provided me with contact information for two individuals I have been hoping to speak to about their involvement with the statue.

I have tried to contact Theresa Redd about American Indian curriculum in James City County Schools but she has not yet responded. I sent an email to the Rockefeller special collections to schedule a visit where I could examine old maps of Williamsburg and see if they had any information on the statue that I did not already have.

 

 

4/11 Work Summary

This past week had been a somewhat frustrating one. I felt confident going into the week after my meeting with Kate and discussion about the direction of the project. I made some progress on the secondary sources and other research, but I had been struggling with contacts and leads on interviews. Kate assisted me in finding some names and those contacts thus far have been somewhat successful. I had made plans to meet with a rabbi and visit the synagogue, but due to some miscommunication, the meeting has gotten pushed back until the following week. It was a bit of a let down, especially since I feel as though I will get a better grasp of my project once I physically experience the space for myself. This upcoming week will be a busy one, and I have plans to really move forward and cement some interviews.

Week ending 4/11

This week was somewhat productive, but again clustered with other obligations that made it difficult to pay a great deal of attention to the WDP. Two papers and a phone interview later, though, next week is looking more productive.

That’s not to say that this week was a total wash. There was actually quite a few good things that happened. On Tuesday, I interviewed Tyler Morris, one of the current residents of 331. She provided an interesting point of comparison to Fred’s stories about growing up in that home, as well as more information about off-campus housing: the lack of it, the competition that surrounds the existing rentals, how common it is to overcrowd, i.e. have 4+ people, etc. It was a fun interview, and Kari and I both learned a lot. On Thursday, I also met with Chris Connolly, a student from Williamsburg who sits on the Planning Commission. He agreed to be formally interviewed this coming week, and was really forthcoming in the information that he gave during our preliminary interview. I really need to have my ducks in a row for this interview, considering how he could potentially speak to a lot of different aspects of living in Williamsburg and about this rule and apparently has few qualms about doing so.

I also got a call this week from someone I contacted who was willing to talk about the three-person rule. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch their name at the beginning of the phone call and then it just became too awkward to ask whom I was speaking with, but I will be meeting this mystery man on Monday. I should probably figure that out beforehand, as Prof. Lelievre suggested. (Update: it’s Gary Shelly, a landlord who has consistently butted heads with the city over the three-person rule.)

Getting down to this final bit, though, I’m unsure as to how I will be able to meet with everyone I need to meet with for a well-rounded paper. So far, rental agencies and neighborhood residents have not contacted me back, and I haven’t had any more luck looking for non-student renters. I can show up at the rental agencies (something I’ll do this coming week) but I can’t make them talk to me then, either. The residents are an even tougher get; since they’re mostly elderly people, I don’t want to intrude on their space, and being more forceful with elderly people could be seen as disrespectful. Ugh. The people I have talked to, though, I think are pretty good sources and I could write a good paper with it. I just wish these sources were more accessible.

Other than my own project, though, I indexed for Kari when she interviewed Bruce Larson at his home on Monday. He was very forthcoming with both information and snacks. All she had to do was ask one question, then he launched into a 90 minute, uninterrupted talk that answered all of Kari’s questions. Indexing for a duration that long was rather challenging, just constantly writing and paying attention without any clear breaks or changes of topic. It was nevertheless a really interesting insight into how he does his work as an archaeologist.

Next week is crunch time. In addition to the Chris Connolly interview, I hope to schedule something with Gary Shelly, a management agency, and a neighborhood resident at the very least. Here’s hoping it all works out!

Week Ending 04/11/2014

On Monday, April 7, Bruce Larson and his wife, Natalie, graciously welcomed Ryan (Feeney) and I into their Williamsburg home so that I could conduct my first ‘official’ WDP oral history interview.   Mr. Larson is a veteran archaeologist who spoke to me about his work and the journey that eventually lead him to work for the Department of Defense as the Atlantic division cultural resources branch head.   Prior to the interview, I spoke with Mr. Larson about what I hoped to learn from his interview, so that he would have time to reflect before the interview took place.  That strategy seems to have worked well, because he knew exactly what to say and how to say it.  I couldn’t have asked for a more gracious and helpful interview subject.   I think the interview went well overall, because Mr. Larson was so forthcoming with information.  However, I am not so sure that my interviewing skills were wonderful because I ultimately asked very few questions.    Today, Dr. Lelievre and Mr. Larson will escort me on my first field site visit, which I am excited to experience.  We are going to the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station to visit Charles’ Corner, a community similar in many ways to Magruder because of its proximity to the York River, ethnography and involvement with the Department of Defense .  I may not be able to access Magruder itself, but a visit to Charles’ Corner will almost certainly inform my understanding of Magruder.    Stay tuned for next week’s blog and an entry on that experience!

On Tuesday, I met once more with Wilford Kale, to touch base on my research and the project, as well as to get his signature on a Deed of Gift.  I did not conduct a formal oral history interview with Mr. Kale, but he did provide me with his extensive personal research notes on Williamsburg Presbyterian Church.  Since these are not formally published and I want to be able to cite  some of that information in my paper, I wanted a Deed of Gift so that I could have confidence that he recognizes and approves of my intent.

This week was not without its disappointments.  As it turns out, my interview with Brian Palmer (the Magruder descendant and professional journalist I was so keen to interview) will not be moving forward.  He is deeply engaged with the production of his documentary on Magruder, Make the Ground Talk, and his own research for that production.  Anyone interested in Magruder and/or antebellum/postbellum African American Tidewater communities may want to visit his blog: http://bxpnyc.wordpress.com.   I know I will be following his progress and anxiously awaiting the release of his documentary.

This project has been been a learning process for me in so many unexpected ways.  I think I know something, then I realize that what I ‘know’ is far less than I thought.   This disturbs me deeply.   I like having answers and not getting them seems like a failure.   As the deadline to write this paper and conclude this project advances ever closer, I am challenged to overcome this feeling and value my research experience for all that it is, revealing or not.

 

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About

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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