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History Under Construction

Contested Commemoration: North Carolina’s National Cemeteries

“Load after load of pine box coffins pass here every day,” wrote one Raleigh woman in 1867. In the years following the Civil War, federal authorities exhumed the hastily buried bodies of more than 10,000 Union soldiers who had died in North Carolina and reinterred them in four new national cemeteries established in the state. This vast reburial operation—which excluded the Confederate dead and segregated African Americans—provoked strong and conflicting emotions among war-weary Tar Heels and contributed to enduring divisions in North Carolinians’ memories of the war and its aftermath.

Contact: Diana Bell-Kite (

Genealogy 101 for Everyone

How can someone trace family lineages when the historical record seems to run dry? This program helps participants find new routes and connect the lineage dots. Using a question-and-answer format, curator Ijames encourages audiences to bring their artifacts, documents, oral histories, and photographs for discussion and documentation.

Contact: Earl Ijames (

What Did People Wear in Colonial America?

What does your clothing say about you? If you lived in the 1700s, anyone who looked at your clothing would immediately know your social status and gender. What can we learn today about how people lived in the past just by examining their clothing?

Contact: Raelana Poteat (

“Stranded on a Scientific Sandbank”: U.S. Women as Ancillary Travelers and Amateur Egyptologists, 1880-1912

“Egyptomania” was all the rage during the late 19th century. Ancient Egypt permeated popular culture in the United States, from Pharaonic-styled furnishings to electroplated corpses to International Expositions where Egypt was placed on exhibit for the world to see. The late 19th century was also a critical juncture for the formal study of Egyptology, and those who “dug it” were venerated as diviners of arcane wisdom.

In its formative years, the study of ancient Egypt remained a hobby of leisured intellectual males. Yet the loosely structured, amateur character of the “Orientalist sciences” enabled women to participate in the field through local historical societies and municipal museums. By the 20th century, efforts to professionalize prevailed. Join curator Jeanne Marie Warzeski and learn the stories of several women who made careers in Egyptology during the late 19th century.

Contact: Jeanne Marie Warzeski (

Finding a Home in History: World’s Fairs, Mount Vernon, and the Historic House Movement

From old-timey kitchens at the grand world’s fairs of 1876 and 1892 to the first historic house museum in America—George Washington’s Mount Vernon—women played key roles in saving and shaping America’s historic landscape. Learn the stories of some of these path-breakers; the visions of history (and of womanhood) that drove them; and their struggles not to lose control of the preservation movement that they founded.

Contact: Benjamin Filene (

Picturing the Past: Using Photos as Historical Documents

Why should we look at old photographs? To learn about the past? To find parallels with the present?

In the mid-1800s, the ability to take photographs added visual precision to the way we chronicle our human existence. Photography forever changed the way we record and remember our individual lives—and our history.

So how do historians study old photos? Find out how we decode photographs to understand the past in order to pull the hidden stories from old pictures.

Contact: Raelana Poteat (