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Digital History | New Exhibit Explores Stono Preserve’s Changing Landscape

This entry was posted on Monday, February 10th, 2020

The College Libraries are pleased to announce The Stono Preserve’s Changing Landscape, a digital history exhibit exploring the archaeology and history of a single geographic space in the South Carolina Lowcountry—a nearly 1,000-acre plot of land twenty miles west of the Charleston peninsula.

Excavations in the Avenue of Oaks. Photograph by Kimberly Pyszka.

Bequeathed to the College by the late naturalist John Henry Dick, the site documents the region’s 300+ year history and the experiences of those who shaped the landscape: indigenous peoples, enslaved laborers, plantation owners, African American tenant farmers, and elite whites.

“The Libraries are excited to have the first digital history exhibit that uses archeology to reveal underrepresented history in the Lowcountry,” said Leah Worthington, the Libraries’ digital projects librarian. “From uncovering the artifacts of indigenous peoples to identifying the rice canals dug by the enslaved peoples to mapping out African American tenant farmers’ homes in the 20th century, the exhibit’s scholars show that Stono Preserve is a space for the College’s scholars and students to continue uncovering the Lowcountry’s underrepresented history.”

The exhibit is produced by the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI), an award-winning digital public history project hosted by the Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL) at the College. LDHI would like to thank the exhibit’s authors, Dr. Kimberly Pyszka and Dr. Maureen Hays, for their support and collaborative effort.

Example of artifacts recovered at the parsonage site. Photograph by Kimberly Pyszka.

“From my first visit to Stono Preserve, I felt an immediate connection to the land and wondered about the people who shaped it,” Dr. Pyszka said. “Through archaeological excavations and historical research, we now know more about their lives and contributions. As an alum, it has been really special to return to the College and help train and mentor the next generation of the College’s anthropology and archaeology graduates.”

“The best thing about this project is knowing the story isn’t finished,” Dr. Hays said. “Stono Preserve isn’t just about weaving stories of the past, it is about the new stories being made there every day by students and faculty.”

From left: History Department Graduate Assistants Cappy Yarbrough and Mills Pennebaker provided curatorial support for the exhibit. Photograph by Vincent Fraley.

Every exhibit is made possible through the work of graduate assistants from the College of Charleston-Citadel Graduate History M.A. Program. The experience of working with LDHI empowers students with curatorial and administrative experience in digital humanities.

“I have the amazing opportunity not only to learn more about traditionally marginalized histories of the Lowcountry area, but I am also learning incredibly important skills to carry with me as I finish graduate school and continue to work in the field of public history,” graduate student Mills Pennebaker ’21 said.

“I have really enjoyed the chance to work in a collaborative office environment with others who are passionate about sharing local histories,” graduate student Cappy Yarbrough 20 said.

The Stono Preserve’s Changing Landscape is among more than two dozen digital exhibits released since LDHI’s 2014 launch, each dedicated to spotlighting the Lowcountry’s overlooked or forgotten histories.

With topics spanning enslaved African Muslims to Charleston’s first Latinx communities, LDHI’s team believes digital interpretation can play a major role in promoting awareness of these diverse histories within the region’s countless historic landscapes, structures and beyond.

The Stono Preserve’s Changing Landscape and all of LDHI’s digital exhibits are freely available at ldhi.library.cofc.edu.

From left: LDHI co-director Tyler Mobley, History Department Graduate Assistants Mills Pennebaker and Cappy Yarbrough, and LDHI co-director Leah Worthington. Photograph by Vincent Fraley.