Trish Smith to Give Public Lecture on Digital Restoration at Drayton Hall

3d-before_after

Digital Restoration:
Marrying Tradition & Innovation at Drayton Hall

presented by

Trish Lowe Smith
Curator of Historic Architectural Resources
Drayton Hall

Thursday, September 29 at 7:00 pm
College of Charleston
Simons Center for the Arts, Room 309
54 St. Philip Street

Free and open to the public.

bookcase

Trish Smith’s latest work includes a 3D rendering of Drayton Hall’s Withdrawing Room with a c. 1740’s desk and bookcase from the Drayton Collection.

Learn MORE about the Digital Restoration of Drayton Hall

Trish_Headshot - resized for web Patricia “Trish” Lowe Smith is the Curator of Historic Architectural Resources at Drayton Hall. After graduating with a B.A. in Art History from the University of South Carolina Honors College, Smith received her M.S. from the Clemson University and College of Charleston joint graduate program in Historic Preservation. Smith came to Drayton Hall in 2010 as a Wood Family Fellow, and joined the staff permanently upon completion of her fellowship. In 2013, Smith was awarded a residential fellowship at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Digital History Center to study the application of 3D visualization technology for the documentation and interpretation of cultural heritage sites. During her tenure at Drayton Hall she has assembled the site’s first preservation archive, carried out several architectural conservation projects, launched a digital restoration of Drayton Hall, and is currently managing the rehabilitation of Drayton Hall’s iconic portico.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

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Preservation Coordinator Cameron Moon removing one of the 74 louvered shutters from the main house.

 

Hurricane season is officially upon us. Are you ready?

Staff members across all departments have been planning, preparing, and taking necessary steps now in the event a storm should be headed our way. Case in point: the preservation department’s removal of louvered shutters in the main house.

Trish Lowe Smith, curator of historic architectural resources, and Cameron Moon, preservation coordinator, with the assistance of volunteer Stan Younce (not pictured), have been getting their exercise as they removed the 74 louvered shutters from the windows in the house.

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Curator of Historic Architectural Resources Trish Smith after removing one of the louvered shutters from the main house. Volunteer Stan Younce assisted.

“These Victorian-era shutters are not as useful as they once were now that protective UV film* cuts down on damaging light and heat in the house,” explains Patricia “Trish” Lowe Smith. “More importantly, our custom window covers that protect the house during a hurricane cannot be installed with the louvered shutters in place. So, to save precious time if we find ourselves in the path of a hurricane, we’ve taken them down and stored them in a protected space–they can be reinstalled, but at this time we have no plans to do so.”

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HurricanePrepWindowShutters2016 (3)

Shutters will be stored in a protected area; they can always be reinstalled, but with the many practical advantages of the custom window covers, there are currently no plans to do so.

 

Below is Trish’s diagram explaining how the plywood/Tyvek custom window covers work. The window glass is sacrificial in this system. If it breaks, rainwater will sheet down the Tyvek and back out instead of blowing into the house.

Windows Diagram

*In response to questions about what kind of protective UV film we use: it’s Solar Gard SS50. We chose it because it’s removable, doesn’t drastically change the look of the glass, and cuts down a significant amount of UV light and heat. After four years, we’re very happy with it.

About Drayton Hall  Founded in 1738, Drayton Hall is an icon of colonial America and the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture. After seven generations, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. A National Historic Landmark, Drayton Hall is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is administered by The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

When the National Trust acquired Drayton Hall in 1974, it made the decision to “preserve” or stabilize the site. This action—unprecedented in its day—set Drayton Hall on a course unique among historic sites: it preserved its authentic, centuries-old timeline of history rather than restoring it to one specific period. Because it has never been modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house remains unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to come through.

“John Hope: Botanist of the Scottish Enlightenment”

Henry Noltie headshot

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series – Thursday, April 21

Speaker: Henry Noltie, Ph.D., Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

VENUE: SOUTH CAROLINA SOCIETY HALL, 72 MEETING STREET, CHARLESTON, SC

Today, we tend to imagine that inter-continental travel is a recent phenomenon – in fact it has always taken place, it merely took slightly longer. For example, such was the renown of the Edinburgh Medical School in the 18th century, that it drew students from as far afield as Russia and India in the east, and from the American colonies (including the Caribbean) in the west. One such student was Charles Drayton, who made the transatlantic trip to study botany and materia medica in 1767 under the famed professor John Hope. In keeping with this theme, Dr. Noltie will journey from Scotland to Charleston to speak about the botanical information Charles Drayton brought with him back from Scotland as he made the same trip just about 250 years prior. Dr. Noltie will additionally focus on John Hope and some of his other American pupils, including Benjamin Rush, who was in the same year as Drayton, and an exciting new project that has seen the rebuilding of the house that Hope built, to designs by John Adam, to house his head gardener, and as a lecture room that Drayton would have sat in had he arrived in Edinburgh ten years later.

Since 1986, after studying botany at Oxford and Museum Studies at Leicester, Henry Noltie, Ph.D., has worked at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) as a curator and taxonomist. For 14 years he worked on the Flora of Bhutan project, writing the first account of the plants of that remote Himalayan Kingdom and leading the team for its concluding years. He wrote two of the volumes of the Flora, relating to the monocots, for which he received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. Since 2000, his work has been on historical aspects of the rich herbarium and illustrations collections of the RBGE, especially relating to India, which has combined nomenclatural research with historical and art-history studies and the mounting of exhibitions at the RBGE gallery, Inverleith House. A series of publications on Scottish East India Company surgeons, and the botanical drawings they commissioned from Indian artists in the late 18th and early 19th century, has resulted. This work was extended into SE Asia in a collaboration with the British Library on the collections of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. His work on the Scottish Enlightenment botanist John Hope also took visual materials for its starting point – the unique collection of Hope’s teaching drawings preserved at RBGE led to the writing of a short biography in 2011. His most recent work is a two-volume work on Hugh Cleghorn (1820–1895), a pioneering Forest Conservator, but also the source of one of the largest collections of botanical drawings and books in the RBGE collection.

About Drayton Hall  Founded in 1738, Drayton Hall is the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture and the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. After seven generations, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. A National Historic Landmark, Drayton Hall is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is administered by The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

When the National Trust acquired Drayton Hall in 1974, it made the decision to “preserve” or stabilize the site. This action—unprecedented in its day—set Drayton Hall on a course unique among historic sites: it preserved its authentic, centuries-old timeline of history rather than restoring it to one specific period. Because it has never been modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house remains unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to come through.

Click here for information on all of our 2016 Distinguished Speakers.

Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series
is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC.

Francis Marion Hotel

Curating the Black Atlantic: Race, Memory, and Museum Making

Jonathan Holloway

Jonathan Holloway

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series – Thursday, March 24th

Speaker: Dean Jonathan Holloway, Ph.D., Yale College

Venue: South Carolina Society Hall, 72 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC

 

Beginning in the 1970s, museum curators began to search for materials and artifacts they could use to interpret the black experience in the Americas. Their efforts flew in the face of previous scholarship that declared that there were almost no artifacts available to understand the black past. Using new technologies, the new generation of curators argued that their predecessors were wrong. Whereas earlier scholars only saw “absence,” the post-civil rights curators concluded that they were surrounded by evidence of a black past. The absence, it turns out, was the evidence.

How can we make sense of this conclusion? What can we learn by studying the history of absence? What does the black past tell us about how the Atlantic world was made and about the role of museums in making that world?

Jonathan Holloway (GRD, 1995) is Dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies. He specializes in post-emancipation United States history with a focus on social and intellectual history. He is the author of Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919–1941 (2002) and Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940 (2013), both with the University of North Carolina Press. He edited Ralph Bunche’s A Brief and Tentative Analysis of Negro Leadership (NYU Press, 2005) and co-edited Black Scholars on the Line: Race, Social Science, and American Thought in the 20th Century (Notre Dame University Press, 2007). He has written an introduction for a new edition of W.E.B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk, published by Yale University Press in 2015. He has held fellowships from the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Ford Foundation. He was an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellow in 2011–2012. Currently, he is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

About Drayton HallFounded in 1738, Drayton Hall is the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture and the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. After seven generations, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. A National Historic Landmark, Drayton Hall is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is administered by The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

When the National Trust acquired Drayton Hall in 1974, it made the decision to “preserve” or stabilize the site. This action—unprecedented in its day—set Drayton Hall on a course unique among historic sites: it preserved its authentic, centuries-old timeline of history rather than restoring it to one specific period. Because it has never been modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house remains unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to come through.

Click here for information on all of our 2016 Distinguished Speakers.

Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series
is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC.

Francis Marion Hotel

“The Best Portico: Rehabilitating an Architectural Icon”

3. Drayton Hall-Photographer Ron Blunt

Drayton Hall, an icon of colonial America, with its rare double portico.

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series – Thursday, February 18th

  Speaker: Trish Smith, Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, Drayton Hall

Venue: South Carolina Society Hall, 72 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC

 

Five years ago, Drayton Hall launched the portico rehabilitation project: an effort to remedy serious threats to the portico’s preservation and to visitor safety. After years of careful study and planning, the final construction phase is drawing to a close. Join Drayton Hall’s Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, Trish Smith, as we take a look back at what makes Drayton Hall’s portico so special and how an international team of professionals came together to bring this momentous project to completion.

Trish_Headshot - resized for webPatricia “Trish” Lowe Smith is the Curator of Historic Architectural Resources at Drayton Hall. After graduating with a B.A. in Art History from the University of South Carolina Honors College, Smith received her M.S. from the Clemson University and College of Charleston joint graduate program in Historic Preservation. Smith came to Drayton Hall in 2010 as a Wood Family Fellow, and joined the staff permanently upon completion of her fellowship. In 2013, Smith was awarded a residential fellowship at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Digital History Center to study the application of 3D visualization technology for the documentation and interpretation of cultural heritage sites. During her tenure at Drayton Hall she has assembled the site’s first preservation archive, carried out several architectural conservation projects, launched a digital restoration of Drayton Hall, and is currently managing the rehabilitation of Drayton Hall’s iconic portico.

About Drayton HallFounded in 1738, Drayton Hall is the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture and the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. After seven generations, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. A National Historic Landmark, Drayton Hall is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is administered by The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

When the National Trust acquired Drayton Hall in 1974, it made the decision to “preserve” or stabilize the site. This action—unprecedented in its day—set Drayton Hall on a course unique among historic sites: it preserved its authentic, centuries-old timeline of history rather than restoring it to one specific period. Because it has never been modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house remains unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to come through.

Click here for information on all of our 2016 Distinguished Speakers.

Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.
The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series
is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC.
Francis Marion Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

Drayton Hall in the News – January 2016

 

Drayton Hall 2013

Photo by Jack Alterman

Enjoy these two recent articles about Drayton Hall, its staff, and the work we’re doing to preserve this architectural masterpiece.
Online: January 2016 – Charleston Mercury – “Drayton Hall’s ‘Bad Boy’” by Robert Salvo or download the pdf version: ChasMerc DraytonHall’s bad boy fullarticle
Online: January 17, 2016 – Post & Courier – “At Drayton Hall, a New Solution to an Old Problem” by Robert Behre or download the pdf version: P&C Drayton Hall’s Portico full article

 

 

 

 

Mark your Calendars: the 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series

Website HeaderThe Friends of Drayton Hall are pleased to present the third season of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series. Beginning with the opening event of the 2016 season, you’ll experience a range of thought-provoking presentations related to America’s history and culture by some of today’s most respected historians, archaeologists, and curators. Speakers will also highlight the connections of Charleston and Drayton Hall to their research interests, and answer questions from the audience. For additional information on this year’s speakers, please visit the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series website.

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SCFMlogo

SPRING 2016 SERIES

Thursday, February 18, 2016
Patricia Lowe Smith, Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
The Best Portico: Rehabilitating an Architectural Icon

Thursday, March 24, 2016
Dean Jonathan Holloway, Dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies
Curating the Black Atlantic: Race, Memory, and Museum Making

Thursday, April 21, 2016
Henry Noltie, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
John Hope: Botanist of the Scottish Enlightenment

FALL 2016 SERIES

Thursday, September 15, 2016
Sarah Stroud Clarke, Archaeologist & Curator of Collections, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
What Lies Beneath: The Archaeology of the pre-Drayton Era

Thursday, October 20, 2016
Dr. William M. Kelso, Director of Research & Interpretation, Historic Jamestowne
Jamestown, The Buried Truth

Thursday, November 17, 2016 – SPONSORED BY CHIPSTONE 
Dr. David S. Shields, Carolina Distinguished Professor and the McClintock Professor of Southern Letters, University of South Carolina
Creating the World Orchard                              

 LOCATION

South Carolina Society Hall
72 Meeting Street, Charleston SC 29401

Ample on-street parking and public lot parking
is available within a block of the South Carolina Society Hall

Doors open at 5:30 pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30 pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.

For more information, please contact: Tara White Odom, Development Events Coordinator, 843-769-2627 or by e-mail

Building Bridges Symposium Highlights Latest Research and Discoveries from Drayton Hall

header1Join us on January 29 and 30 for Breaking Ground and Building Bridges, a symposium that brings together leading scholars from Charleston’s preservation and history organizations to present new research on the material culture of the Carolina Lowcountry. Over the course of two days, speakers will discuss exciting initiatives and cutting–edge research projects related to archaeology, the decorative arts, social history, and post-Reconstruction Charleston. Critically-acclaimed artist Jonathan Green will give the Keynote Address at the Building Bridges Symposium.

This year, Drayton Hall will be represented in the program by Cameron Moon, Preservation Coordinator, who will present “The Caretaker’s House: Vernacular Architecture and the Postbellum African American Community at Drayton Hall” on Friday at 2:15 pm. Ms. Moon will speak about how her research of the caretaker’s house has led to a better understanding of the African American community living at Drayton Hall from the late 19th to mid-20th century and has helped to develop a more accurate portrayal of the tenant houses and landscape during phosphate mining.

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c. 1915, one of the earlier photographs of the caretaker’s house shows it in its original location next to the main house. This is a rare view, as it is of the back of the house and shows its original footprint before an addition on the back was built in 1923.

The Symposium is a collaboration between Historic Charleston Foundation, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, The Charleston Museum and Preservation Society of Charleston to facilitate dialogue among many of the Lowcountry Institutions. All proceeds will benefit the sponsoring institutions. Symposium tickets are $125/person for the general public and free for students.

See full schedule and purchase tickets

 

Camerodrayton_hs_06n Moon is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning and a minor in Anthropology. Her honors thesis chronicled the adaptive reuse of the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street and its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood. Before joining the DHPT staff in September 2014, she worked for Edgewood Builders, where she learned construction, preservation, and restoration techniques at Medway Plantation and houses in the historic district. Cameron is currently working on ongoing Drayton Hall conservation projects as well as converting the museum shop, housed in the former caretaker’s house, into an interpretive museum space.

Towards Truth and Reconciliation at Drayton Hall

By Dr. Dale Rosengarten, Founding Director of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston Library

Students listening to Drayton Hall's preservation department staff introduce them to the site.

Students listening to Drayton Hall’s preservation department staff introduce them to the site. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Dale Rosengarten.

On a cold afternoon at the end of February, I accompanied 20 first-year students at the College of Charleston on a field trip to Drayton Hall. The class I am teaching, “Charleston as a Classroom,” features a field trip every Thursday, with an extra hour added to the schedule so we have plenty of time. As we boarded the bus for Drayton Hall, I was happy to see we had 100% attendance, despite the frigid temperatures and the fact that we were just one day away from spring break.

We were greeted at the edge of the parking lot by Cameron Moon, a recent College of Charleston grad who works for Drayton Hall as the Preservation Coordinator. She was soon joined by Carter C. Hudgins, Deputy Director, and Rosemary Giesy, the interpreter who would lead our tour. Cameron and Carter talked about the history of the property and their professional involvement. We headed across the lawn and Rosemary began to tell us about the history of Drayton Hall and the people who lived there.

Drayton Hall Historic House Interpreter Rosemary Giesy, who was described at the

Drayton Hall Historic House Interpreter Rosemary Giesy, who was described as the “cutest tour guide ever” by student Lawson Thompson. Photograph courtesy of Lawson Thompson.

The house and grounds were as spectacular as ever, but what made the place come to life was Rosemary’s animation and deep knowledge of the subject. As the mother of a C of C alum her appreciation of her young audience was palpable. We explored the house from top to bottom, finishing up on the ground floor (as the temperature continued to drop!) with a slide show about Drayton Hall’s African American history.

“The scenery was beautiful but the house was even more beautiful, if not for the view, for its elaborateness. The fine detail that went into the wood-carving and crafting of the estate was amazing. There was such precision and small detail to observe. I found it amazing that the original paint was still there, if not a little worn. I loved hearing the story of what each room was used for whether it be a bedroom or a room to entertain guests, a dining room, another living room, or even a “VIP” sort of room used for entertaining the finest of visitors. I loved hearing about the last Drayton to live in the house and about her many, many dog paintings in the front room.

Learning about the slaves who worked there and their relationship to the Draytons was interesting. The basement was dark and colder than the rest of the house and if that wasn’t sad enough, the site of their unmarked graves with the beautiful arch and peaceful scenery did it for me. Our guide was so warm, welcoming and knowledgeable about everything there was to know about the plantation. She was so memorable with her big red coat and excited talk.”
—Haley Olds, student

(For additional student responses, visit the class’s blog.)

Shortly after our visit, Dr. George W. McDaniel, president and executive director of Drayton Hall, made an offer I couldn’t refuse: to bring a group of descendants of Drayton Hall—both heirs of the owners and descendants of the enslaved—to the college for a panel presentation. We scheduled the program for March 18 and invited not only my students, but also Grant Gilmore’s historic preservation majors, Simon Lewis’s English class, and Ruth Ellen Gruber, the Jewish Studies Program’s Distinguished Visiting Scholar this term.

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Shown above and below: sixty-plus people packed into Room 227 in Addlestone Library, and McDaniel started the session by introducing our guests: Catherine Brown Braxton, Rebecca Campbell, and Annie Meyers—all relations of Richmond Bowens, whose ancestors were brought by the Draytons from Barbados in the 1670s —and Shelby Nelson, grandson of the last Drayton to own Drayton Hall.

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George McDaniel introduces the descendants.

Dr. George W. McDaniel introduces the descendants.

First we watched a short and powerful video, after which the four panelists spoke about their connections to Drayton Hall and the way that race relations have changed in their lifetimes. Annie Meyers said her cousin Richmond Bowens helped her overcome the negative feeling she had toward Drayton Hall, where her ancestors were enslaved. Richmond’s fondness for the place and close friendship with Charles Drayton gave her a different sense, and she began to feel comfortable and positive.

Rebecca Campbell. left foreground.
Rebecca Campbell, left foreground.

“I see a change in generations,” said Rebecca Campbell. “Now we hang out together, go to conferences together—it was not always so. We’ve learned to love and forgive. We are now seeing the light. To make America grow we got to work together.”

Shelby Nelson, left center in green shirt.
Shelby Nelson, left center in green shirt.

Shelby Nelson described his feeling of “coming home” when he reconnected with Drayton Hall. He called the house “a real treasure” and said that in 1974, when his grandfather Charles Drayton and great-uncle Frank Drayton decided to sell the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “it was the best thing we ever did.”

Catherine Braxton turned the discussion in a historical direction. She and her sister Rebecca own the Borough Houses, historic properties at the foot of Calhoun Street in Charleston that are remnants of a largely African American neighborhood. Catherine declared: “Drayton Hall is my roots.” After emancipation, the freed people stayed and worked to earn something to live on. “My family left a legacy there. My grandfather was born there as a free man.”

Catherine Braxton, far right.

Catherine Braxton, far right.

“Coming to the table,” Catherine said, is what meetings of descendants of slave owners and of the enslaved are called, and they are happening in many places. “We’ve been wounded and need to heal.” She welcomes opportunities to confront the demons of slavery. In 1978 she visited Gorée Island, off the coast of Dakar, Senegal, where captives were once bought and sold. “I could smell, feel the pain.”

Annie Myers, second from left.

Annie Meyers, second from left.

While Annie did not go to Africa, she found deep roots at Drayton Hall, where her grandmother worked, sewing and cooking and sweeping the yard. With the help of genealogist Toni Carrier, she has made progress tracing her lineage. She is now “doing my DNA,” to get further clues about where her people came from. With some prompting from George, Annie also described how she got involved in the sit-in at Kress’s on King and Wentworth Street in 1960. She joined the picket line demanding the right to sit at the lunch counter. “Something needed to be done,” she said, “and we did it.” For more on the sit-in, check out this article by the Post and Courier: “A Lunch Unserved: How the 1960 Kress sit-in changed Charleston.”

The Drayton descendants made a profound impact on my students, adding a layer of understanding to what they learned on the field trip. I asked them to write down their reactions to the panel and here’s what they had to say:

“It was the most beautiful act of forgiveness I have ever seen. Never before had I witnessed history resolved in such an elegant and hopeful manor. There was so much love between them all that I felt as if we too were being welcomed into the family.” —Emma Lieberman

I found the entire presentation quite moving. I got chills [watching the video] as one of the descendants of the Bowens family started singing in the graveyard of her ancestors. The connection between the Draytons and the Bowens today is heartwarming and is a perfect example of the impacts of history, time, and understanding. They say they are like a family, but it is clear the relationship and respect for one another goes much deeper.” —Kristen Kita

“It was really special to me to have descendants of the former slaves that worked at Drayton Hall and Shelby Nelson, a descendant of the Draytons, come talk to everyone. I found it fascinating to see them sit together at a table sharing what one house means to them. It warmed my heart to see how close the families have somewhat become considering their history so long ago. I am even more thankful for the fact that Drayton Hall is open to the public and we are able to appreciate and admire such a beautiful home that holds many memories along with untold stories.” —Lawson Thompson

“The video and presentation explaining the history of the Drayton Plantation brought the site to life through the stories and experiences of those closely connected to the families who lived there, and most especially, those who worked as slaves. I was delighted to see that the descendants of those who lived on Drayton are still very involved with the plantation and keep close contact with one another.” 
—Mattie Rogers

“The discussion and video about Drayton Hall were fantastic and inspiring. It was great being able to ask the panelists my questions and they did a very good job providing detailed answers. The way they are able to share their personal feelings and stories with us is amazing.” —Owens Morgan

“The presentation was a great experience for many reasons including actually meeting descendants of Drayton Hall. It was also enjoyable and interesting to hear them out on their own perspective of their historic lineage. Their perspectives were invaluable and appreciated. It was awesome to see the complete reconciliation of the Draytons on behalf of the descendants of their slaves because it really highlights the long way we’ve come in race relations.” —Mikey Bishof

“First of all, I want to thank each and every member of the panel for coming and speaking to us. I feel that the best way for us to learn is by hearing the stories first hand, and I think the way it was structured allowed us to hear from all sides. . . . We are most likely the last generation to be able to hear these stories from a first or second hand account, and so in order to keep these viewpoints alive we need to listen and in turn share their stories.” —Paige Claire Mesher

Drayton Hall's upper great hall. Photograph by P.C. Mescher.

Drayton Hall’s upper great hall. Photograph courtesy of Paige Claire Mescher.

“It was a great experience getting to hear stories from people who are directly related to Drayton Hall. They had very interesting things to say and they made Drayton Hall easier to understand. It was a great opportunity that not many people get to experience. I thought it was very nice and thoughtful of the presenters to take time out of their day to come talk to us.” —Caroline Whitaker

“The Drayton Hall descendants who came to speak to us were very interesting. I thought that it was very cool and would have loved to stay longer.” —Allie Garland

While the take-away message was one of reconciliation, the Q&A session broached a number of thorny issues facing the field of public history. Can plantation site interpretation do justice to the lives of the slaves as well as the masters? How can reluctant descendants be persuaded to “come to the table?” How can the field of historic preservation and museum studies attract more African American practitioners? What can be learned from examples of “Dark Tourism” elsewhere? I asked my colleague Ruth Gruber, as a specialist in Jewish heritage tourism in Eastern Europe, to ponder this question.

Photos courtesy of Dr. Dale Rosengarten unless otherwise noted.

Dark Tourism: A Comparative Perspective

By Ruth Ellen Gruber, Norman and Gerry Sue Arnold Distinguished Visiting Chair at the College of Charleston

In March, descendants of Drayton Hall—both Drayton family members and descendants of the enslaved—participated in a panel discussion at the College of Charleston. Standing (l to r): Ruth Ellen Gruber, Lainie Lesser-Mark, Dale Rosengarten, George McDaniel, Grant Gilmore. Seated (l to r): Annie Meyers, Rebecca Campbell, Shelby Nelson, Catherine Braxton.

In March, descendants of Drayton Hall—both Drayton family members and descendants of the enslaved—participated in a panel discussion at the College of Charleston. Standing (l to r): Ruth Ellen Gruber, Lainie Lesser-Mark, Dale Rosengarten, George McDaniel, Grant Gilmore. Seated (l to r): Annie Meyers, Rebecca Campbell, Shelby Nelson, and Catherine Braxton.

More than 20 years ago I wrote a book called Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish Life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday and Today. The title referred to the mezuzah—the encased prayer scroll Jews place on their doorposts, indicating a house as the home of a Jew.

In post-Holocaust Europe you could often find the grooves or scars where mezuzahs had been removed or painted over during or after the Shoah—thus forming symbolic mezuzahs that indicated a house where Jews once lived. In my book, I extrapolated further, suggesting that the surviving physical relics of pre-war Jewish life—synagogue buildings, Jewish cemeteries, even if abandoned, in ruined condition or transformed for other use, also served as symbolic mezuzahs to mark towns, villages, cities, and even countries where Jews once lived and do not live now.

My intent was to show how buildings and other physical sites can be talismans and touchstones, opening the way into memory and history.

George McDaniel made this same idea explicit in his introduction to the panel of Drayton Hall descendants. “History did not happen to someone, somewhere else, but to you,” he said. “You grow up a product of history. Preserving buildings means also preserving the story behind the buildings, making a connection with people. Why is a place important? How do you feel connected?”

From the Jewish perspective, visiting Jewish historical sites in post-Holocaust, post-Communist Europe can be a very positive experience, emphasizing Jewish life, history and culture; but the experience also falls under what is now known as Dark Tourism—tourism to sites of what we can call “negative” history, “negative” experience: death, destruction, war.

Sites of slavery also fall under Dark Tourism, though this aspect of a historic site (such as a plantation or genteel antebellum home) often becomes masked, elided, or simply footnoted in the presentation of beautiful buildings and gardens for tourist consumption.

Much of this boils down to “who controls the narrative”—and to whom is the narrative directed: issues that we have been dealing with in the class I have been teaching, “Memory, Heritage, Renewal.” Although the main focus of our class is Jewish heritage and memory and their role and representation in Europe, we have been able to draw parallels with the way that African American heritage, history, and culture are presented here in Charleston and the Lowcountry.

I was delighted that students from my class were in attendance at the panel presentation featuring the descendants of Drayton Hall, as the discussion clearly demonstrated the parallels we have been dealing with, touching on issues such as the point of view of interpretation and interpreters; messages and signage; how the same place can have different symbolic meanings and generate different memories for different people.

I found particularly compelling a part of the film about Drayton Hall’s African American descendants that parallels the post-Holocaust Jewish experience in Europe. People were filmed sitting in the African American cemetery at Drayton Hall, speaking about how many of the deceased buried there had no markers for their graves, no one to talk about their history. In Eastern Europe, when I visit an abandoned Jewish cemetery, I often ponder the fact that most of the thousands and thousands of people buried in these places are also forgotten, with no descendants to tend their graves or even remember who they were.

Drayton is not alone in trying to present a more inclusive past in the plantation context. Boone Hall has installed an extensive presentation on slavery and African American history centered on the nine preserved slave cabins there. Magnolia Gardens features special programs to bring to life its recently renovated row of cabins. And Middleton Place, which I have not yet visited, presents a permanent exhibit titled “Beyond the Fields” in a two-family tenant residence called Eliza’s House, in memory of Eliza Leach, a South Carolina African American born in 1891, and the last person to live in the building. The much less elaborate Hampton Plantation also incorporates the site’s slave history in well researched text panels, both in the Big House and along the path leading to it.

After the Drayton Hall panel, I was excited to visit McLeod Plantation with Mary Battle, public historian at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, and her class. McLeod, which served as local headquarters of the Freedman’s Bureau following the Civil War, has the potential to interpret not only slave life but the postwar experience of the newly freed men and women. McLeod’s signage uses a phrase that could be the site’s “slogan”—describing it as a place of both “tragedy and transcendence.” I found it interesting that this formulation echoes what we sometimes call sites of Jewish heritage in Europe—“sites of tragedy and sites of triumph.”