The project will consist of four primary activities. The first activity will focus on student-led research and documentation of Red Hill Cemetery. This will involve archival research and work in the historic newspapers of Waycross. We have access to death certificates and Ware County's "book of the dead" in which age, race, cause of death, and place of birth are noted. This work will seek to identify additional burials (currently only 900 of some 2000 individuals have been identified) and to complete an application for inclusion of the cemetery in the Register of National Historic sites. We have secured an Eisen Grant to support a graduate student to spearhead this effort. We will also use this material to develop a publicly researchable database and digital archive.
Second, we are working with Willie Character, a member of the Okefenokee Heritage Center, to conduct oral histories with descendants of those buried there before the cemetery's living memory is lost. This is especially important since the last burial in Waycross was more than 50 years ago. We have arranged for two of our faculty who are experienced in conducting oral history interviews to run a half-day workshop with students interested in working on the project. The interviews will be recorded, transcribed and made publicly available as part of a planned digital humanities project.
Third, Dr. Gordon Rakita and students will use ground penetrating radar (GPR) and field mapping techniques to locate graves and produce subsurface maps of the site. In addition, Dr. Chris Baynard and students will use historic aerial images and gather new drone imagery as well also pole aerial photography. Given the vegetation overgrowth of the area, the use of LiDAR will be key to mapping the surface area, because of its ability to create a series of point cloud layers, which can be stripped to reveal bare earth, and therefore help identify graves and headstones. LiDAR combined with GPR and thermal data will help us accurately map this cemetery. Dr. Baynard will work with both graduate and undergraduate students in his GIS courses to acquire imagery data and process them using advance photogrammetry software.
The fourth element of the project will be the development of a professional, interactive website accessible to the public and useful for research and educational purposes. In the long term, we would like this website serve as a valuable archive for scholars working within African American history, southern history, and related fields. We would also like to create curricula for educators to use in public schools to teach students local African American history. The digital map and other resources on the website would also be valuable resources for instructors to use in the classroom.