Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Louisa County Historical Society Intersecting Historic Preservation with Technology

Each year, we provide an opportunity for community members statewide to compete for $2,000 in seed money for a historic preservation project through our Preservation Pitch program. Three finalists are chosen to present their pitches during a reception at our annual Virginia Preservation Conference. The winners are selected by the audience. Last year, we welcomed Louisa County Historical Society into the winner’s circle for their project to document African American and slave-related burial grounds throughout the state.

Inspired by the inclusion of African American cemeteries on our 2016 Most Endangered Historic Places list, Louisa County Historical Society stated that they, “wanted to be a part of the effort to record and help preserve these sacred sites.”

Their project is two-fold, consisting of technology and community components. For the technology component, they have developed an easy-to-use application with ArcGIS – a platform that enables developers to build custom web and mobile applications that incorporate maps and data. The app utilizes a GeoForm template that allows the locations of burials to be automatically captured while recording data about individual sites and uploading photos.

The advantage of using the GeoForm template is that is can be shared and replicated across the state. After users record data collected in Louisa County about African American burial sites, it is immediately made available online. This data can then be joined, layered and analyzed with any other GIS data (such as the data maintained by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources) thanks to the ArcGIS Open Data solution.

The community component involves cultivating local support through four training events in Louisa County that will help people learn how to use the app. These events will also serve the purpose of educating the public about the importance of identifying and preserving African American burial sites as well as the applicable sections of the Code of Virginia that help protect them.

Ultimately, Louisa County Historical Society hopes that their project will provide a platform for older generations to share their knowledge with younger generations and that both can record burial sites that honor the past together.

“We believe engaging people across the Commonwealth in this effort will stir curiosity to learn about all members of our historic communities. Curiosity leads to investigation, which can change our understanding of history,” said Elaine Taylor, Executive Director, Louisa County Historical Society, during her presentation.

Louisa County Historical Society’s Preservation Pitch submission is an excellent blueprint for the types of historic preservation projects that should be receiving support on local and state levels.

Is there a historic preservation project that could use $2,000 in seed money in your community? If so, submissions for the 2017 Preservation Pitch program are due no later than August 25. Visit Eventbrite to register and learn how you can submit your pitch. Good luck!