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City details archaeological, historical review of proposed stadium

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SHOCKOE SLAVE SITERICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — The city has released details of the archaeological and historical review of proposed Shockoe Stadium and Slave Museum sites, amid controversy that the descendants of Solomon Northup –whose memoir the film “12 Years a Slave” is based on — oppose the envisioned development.

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones had previously said that the city would conduct such a review and that archaeologists would be present during construction phases (detailed outline below).

On Thursday the mayor released details, and said the comprehensive process includes “historical research, expert reviews, archaeological excavations, curation of found artifacts, public review and participation, and long-term sharing of historical information.”

When asked if the mayor’s office released the timeline and details to help extinguish any of the Northrup controversy, Tammy Hawley said, “the review team has been engaged for six weeks now.”

“Reporting back on the 27th [March] on progress was always on the table based on City Council action taken on February 24th,” she added.

This part of the plan has been announced at multiple community meetings.

According to the mayor’s timeline, early documentary research and expert review is expected to take three months, archaeological excavation will take approximately four months.

DUAL LOOK AT SHOCKOEPreparing final technical reports for submission to city and state officials will take approximately 18 months, according to the mayor.

The mayor also ensured that if additional consultation is required by law, the city will adjust the review process accordingly.

Initially the mayor said that when choosing a site to build a new stadium, he considered which site would create more jobs, pay for itself and could be ready for baseball in 2016.

Richmond-based historical and cultural resources management firm Dutton + Associates, LLC will lead the review, while archaeologists and historians from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, local historical organizations, and area universities also will be involved.

In February City Council President Charles Samuel proposed that developers pay to have an independent archaeological excavation before construction started. That proposal was voted down on a 5-4 vote.

“Public involvement is important,” said Jones. “We want our citizens and students to be a part of this process and project. We must share this valuable learning experience.”

To that end the mayor’s office said there will be opportunities for citizens and visitors to observe the excavations and interact with archaeologists.

Teachers and students will have opportunities to visit the excavation site.

[FOR ALL SHOCKOE STADIUM COVERAGE, CLICK HERE]

Archaeological and Historical Review Process 

The archaeological and historical review process will include the following:

Documentary Research

o   Research and record development, patterns, and trends in the Shockoe Bottom project area, including existing historic buildings;

o   Concentrate on identifying sites related to the slave trade and other noteworthy religious, commercial, and residential sites;

o   Identify historic and modern development impacts; determine location of archaeological deposits; and prepare report on documentary research, including historic maps, photographs, and graphics.

Expert Review and Validation of Documentary Research

o Present research for third-party expert review and validation;

o Experts likely to be from Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Library of Virginia, Richmond Virginia Slave Trail Commission, Historic Richmond Foundation, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University, University of Richmond, and University of Virginia, among others; and

o Place research online for public review and input.

Archaeological Excavations 

o Develop archaeological excavation plan based upon results of documentary research;

o Plan will include identification of areas of proposed excavation, relevant research themes and questions, and proposed field methods.

Field methods will include a combination of the following:

  • Monitor areas where significant archeological deposits may exist but have been compromised due to past development; monitor during construction;
  • Investigate significant archaeological deposits and record information from unique historical residential and commercial areas; sampling will take place before construction; and
  • Recover and record significant archaeological data from historically important or unique sites at the project area; recording will take place before construction.
  • Prior to implementation, the archaeological excavation plan will be submitted for expert third-party review and comment.

o Prior to implementation, the archaeological excavation plan will be submitted for expert third-party review and comment.

 Public Participation

o During project archaeological investigations, archaeologists will establish field areas for public observation of excavations, artifact recovery, and interaction with archaeologists;

o Onsite field laboratory to be established for cleaning and processing of artifacts, with public interaction with archaeologists;

o Archaeologists to prepare written monthly updates on archaeological investigations, and will schedule monthly site visits and tours for City officials, members of the public, and City school groups; and

o During field investigations, a program for using social media to provide updates regarding progress and finds will be coordinated through the City’s website and Facebook page.

Reporting and Artifact Curation

o When archaeological fieldwork is completed, a written and illustrated document summarizing excavations will be submitted to City officials, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Library of Virginia, and Historic Richmond Foundation;

o Final results of all archaeological investigations will be presented in a written and illustrated technical report in accordance with current state and federal guidelines for such studies; report will be reviewed by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Library of Virginia, and the Historic Richmond Foundation before being finalized; final report will be filed with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Library of Virginia, and the Richmond Public Library;

o A popular publication will be prepared summarizing key findings from excavations; publication will be made available for distribution;

o An interactive web site – keyed to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Standards of Learning – will be developed for classroom use in K-12 schools; and

o   All artifacts recovered during excavations will be processed and curated in accordance with federal and state guidelines; artifacts will be curated at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and made available to institutions and organizations for education and display purposes.

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