Cataloging Clues

Photographer

Paul Murphy spends his days discovering clues to America’s past. Surrounded by a magnifying glass, latex gloves and a hand-held dusting brush, the University of Mary Washington historic preservation major sorts through a box of seemingly innocuous objects to identify and catalog bits of history. He spies a small sherd of ceramic, perhaps part of a bowl or plate once used by Native Americans; a triangular chipped rock, probably a prehistoric spear or an arrow; and a smooth piece of stone, likely used by hunters to skin animals. “It’s not like being a historian where you read what somebody else wrote and then write your ideas about it,” said Murphy. “It’s something new. You’ve found it, you’ve excavated it, and you interpret it to study how other people lived.” Murphy is one of 11 veterans working at The Veterans Curation Program in Alexandria – an employment and training program for wounded, disabled and recently separated veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan … [Read more...]

Pursuing Preservation

Michael Spencer demonstrates use of the borescope to Jen Sustar, Krysha Snyder, Linda Eckley and Victoria Leonard.

Aaron Caine has a new appreciation for the old white clapboard cottage a stone’s throw from the stately Belmont mansion in Stafford County. “I can’t believe I never noticed this house,” said Caine, a senior historic preservation major at the University of Mary Washington who grew up in the area.  “I’ve driven by here many times and never realized that it was here.” Assistant Professor Michael Spencer understands the oversight. The tenant house is dwarfed by Belmont, the impressive Georgian estate on the hillside once owned by 19th century artist Gari Melchers. Very little archival information is available about the Falmouth cottage referred to in historical documents only as “the house across the road.” The building, which is part of the Melchers estate administered by UMW, makes an ideal study for Caine and the seven students in Spencer’s “building forensics” class who have spent the semester building on previous research and documentation skills, honing old and new … [Read more...]