"A Monumental Blunder": The Challenging History and Uncertain Future of the Virginia State Penitentiary Collection
This is an abstract from the "Urban Erasures and Contested Memorial Assemblages" session, at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.
The Virginia State Penitentiary (1804-1991) loomed over the Falls of the James River and was a feared site of solitary confinement, carceral labor, and capital punishment. Designed by Benjamin Latrobe, the penitentiary was notorious for its inhumane treatment and poor management in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Fieldwork in 1991 recorded the penitentiary’s original foundations and identified an unrecorded cemetery of 110 burial features containing single interments and comingled deposits. Archaeological study and interpretation of these remains, one of Virginia’s largest collections of human remains, have been inadequate and incomplete. This presentation examines the penitentiary collection as a critical example of urban archaeological erasure in this major Southern metropolis. Through advocacy and ethnographic analysis, it will analyze why the remains fail to resonate much with Richmond residents even as the city’s history of archaeological neglect, particularly of African-American burial places and human remains, is receiving considerable attention.
Cite this Record
"A Monumental Blunder": The Challenging History and Uncertain Future of the Virginia State Penitentiary Collection. Ellen Chapman, Elizabeth Cook, Ana F. Edwards. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, St. Charles, MO. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449262)
This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;
Individual & Institutional Roles
Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology