Montpelier Presenters

Albemarle County Schools partnered with Montpelier to present a conference for students centered around a few critical questions regarding public monuments and memorials– Which stories are told and which are left untold by our public monuments and memorials?  How are stories told through our public monuments and memorials?  What constitutes a memorial?

Below is a description of the sessions that students participated in as well as the biographies of the presenters.

Monuments:  Personal  Responses  to Tragedy

Sudden or unjustified loss often elicits a response to memorialize the lives of the fallen. From the Ghost ship warehouse fire to the Charlottesville, Unite the Right tragedy—this session will explore the many ways we memorialize those we have lost and explore unique ways to respond. how would You be memorialized?

Chris Danemayer, Proun Design, LLC

Chris Danemayer creates appropriate, attractive, and engaging exhibits for a wide range of subjects. Danemayer assembles and manages teams of exhibit professionals including researchers, content developers, media developers, exhibit designers, and fabricators that are best qualified to address the needs of specific projects. Current projects include The Mere Distinction of Colour, James Madison’s Montpelier, Orange, VA; Imagining New Technology, MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA; Josiah Henson Park, Bethesda, MD; The Soul of Rock and Roll, Tubman African American Museum, Macon, GA; Genocide: Armenia, The Holocaust and Rwanda, Brookdale Community College, NJ

Uncovering the Hidden History of Slavery at UVA

In 2013, the UVA President’s Commission was charged with researching and then properly memorializing the life and labor of the thousands of enslaved people who built and maintained the University of Virginia. their stories and struggles  in many ways remained hidden in plain sight at UVA. the commission’s work has required a process of acknowledgment and atonement that has evolved for several years – from a simple 2007 plaque recognizing those who built the school, to a project attempting to re-inscribe that history back onto the built landscape. The memorial for enslaved Laborers represents the capstone moment in that effort, but also hopefully represents the beginning of another phase in a process of restorative justice—how do we make amends for that past?

Kirt von Daacke, Ph.D., Assistant Dean & Professor, College of Arts & Sciences, UVA

Kirt von Daacke is Professor of History and Assistant Dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, as well as Co-Chair of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University at the University of Virginia. His first  monograph, Freedom Has a Face: Race, Identity, and Community in Jefferson’s Virginia, was published by the University of Virginia Press in 2012. He currently co-leads “Jefferson’s University: The Early Life Project,” a major digital humanities initiative focused on the first fifty years of the university’s history that is helping  to uncover the history of slavery there. He graduated from UVA in 1997 and earned his Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University in 2005.

The Statutes Behind the Statues: Curating a Digital History of Discriminatory Policies in Charlottesville, VA

Monuments mark the people, places, and things that a society values and celebrates. But the action that orders society is much less monumental. to what extent does renaming a building, removing a statue, or rewriting a plaque in public space alter people’s everyday lives? And, as we pay attention to monuments and memorials, are we taking our “eyes off the prize” of transformative change? in this panel, we will engage with these questions and use the digital resource “the illusion of Progress” to provide a brief overview of the local statutes or policies, which discriminated based on race and ability, that were enacted in tandem with the erection of Charlottesville’s Confederate statues.

Deborah E. McDowell, Director, Carter G. Woodson Institute

Deborah E. McDowell is the Alice Griffin Professor of Literary Studies and Director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, where she has been a member of the faculty since 1987. She is an accomplished author and editor, her publications include ‘The Changing Same’: Studies in Fiction by African-American Women, Leaving Pipe Shop: Memories of Kin, as well as numerous articles, book chapters, and scholarly editions. She founded the African-American Women Writers Series for Beacon Press and served as its editor from 1985-1993. She also served as a period editor for the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, now in its third edition; contributing editor to the D. C. Heath Anthology of American Literature, and co-editor with Arnold Rampersad of Slavery and the Literary Imagination.

James Perla, Managing Director, Citizen Justice Initiative, Carter G. Woodson Institute

James Perla is Managing Director of the Citizen Justice Initiative at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies, a project that works with students, community members, and researchers to create digital resources pertaining to local history. Before embarking on the Citizen Justice Initiative Project, James managed The Movement in the Archive digital archive, which digitized materials related to Civil Rights history in UVA’s Special Collections Library, including the papers of the late Civil Rights leader Julian Bond. He also has experience n the radio industry, having created a podcast about environmental conservation and indigenous rights, as well as produced freelance work for Living Planet, the UnDark Magazine podcast in association with MIT and the Knight Science Journalism Program, and Marketplace from American Public Media. James holds a BA and MA in English Literature from the University of Virginia.


Sign up ahead of time for this opportunity to work with your classmates in montpelier’s brand new recording studio. space is limited to 12 students per session. script and record your own podcast based on your experiences at montpelier.

Kendall Madigan, Digital Marketing Manager, James Madison’s Montpelier

Kendall Madigan is the Digital Marketing Manager at Montpelier. Kendall is in charge of Montpelier’s digital initiatives, ranging from social media marketing and email outreach, to podcasting and digital storytelling. Kendall holds a BA in Film from UNCW and comes to Montpelier with years of experience in local news and television production.

Who Gets Memorials?

An introduction to monuments and memorials throughout human history. When and why did people start creating monuments? Who were they created for? Who has been left out? this session will provide the background context for the remainder of the day’s discussions.

Elizabeth Chew, Ph.D., Vice President for Museum Programs, James Madison’s Montpelier

Elizabeth Chew is Vice President for Museum Programs at Montpelier, where she oversees the Curatorial, Education, Archaeology, Preservation, and Research departments. She holds a B.A. from Yale, an M.A. from the Courtauld Institute of the University of London, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As curator at Monticello for thirteen years, she was involved in expanding interpretation to include women, domestic work, and
slavery. She curated the exhibition “’To Try All Things’: Monticello as Experiment” in the Visitor Center and was co-curator, with Rex Ellis of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, of the exhibition Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty, which was on view in Washington and traveled to Atlanta, St., Louis, and Philadelphia. Before joining the team at Montpelier, she was Betsy Main Babcock Director of the Curatorial and Education Division at Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Shaping the Future by Memorializing the Past

Memorials appear to be solely creatures of history, of and focused on the past. however, memorialization is a process rooted in the now, where people of the present come to terms with the past and make choices to shape the future. students need to be able to critique memorializers’ arguments about the past, but they also need to hear them as people of the present and seek to understand their hopes for the future. equally, as students begin building monuments themselves they need to think about the effect they want to have and the future they hope to build.

Braden Paynter, Program Manager, Membership, Methodology, Practice at The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience

Braden Paynter’s work has focused on using public education spaces, historic homes, zoos, museums, etc., to connect people to each other and the world around them. At the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Braden works with sites on dialogic programming, community engagement, interpretive and exhibit planning, and in sharing best practices around the globe. Before joining the Coalition, Braden  worked with the National Park Service in training, and at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site leading public and education programs, professional development, and exhibits. He has his M.A. in Museum Studies from George Washington University.

Covering All the Bases

Americans tend to either honor sports teams, coaches, and athletes as flawless heroes or otherwise discard them. examining the practices of sports commemoration offers a powerful study of the opportunities and challenges of memorializing public figures and the way these practices reflect, or perhaps don’t reflect, societal ideals.

Kathy Harris Shinnick, Consulting Public Historian

Kathryn Leann Harris holds a bachelor’s in History and English from University of Mississippi and is currently completing work on her master degree in public history from University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her predominant areas of study and research include public history commemoration, specifically in regards to topics of sports, war, and politics in 20th century America. She is currently working on an edited compilation entitled Interpreting Sports at Museums and Historic Sites alongside Doug Stark, the director of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Memorialization at Museums – The Mere Distinction of  Colour

Get an inside look at Montpelier’s new exhibition about slavery and its legacy in America, and discover the process and collaboration necessary to achieve a successful museum experience. Are exhibits emotional or educational vehicles – or both? meet on the back porch of the mansion.

Christian Cotz, Director of Education and Visitor Engagement, James Madison’s

Christian Cotz is the Director of Education and Visitor Engagement at Montpelier. Christian oversees a staff of approximately 50 interpreters and program managers who are the public face of the Montpelier experience. He is responsible for the creation, implementation, and oversight of all Montpelier guided tours, hands-on experiences, student programs, interpretive signage and many exhibits. For the last two years, his attention has largely been devoted to the creation of The Mere Distinction of Colour exhibition.r Prairie museum in Indiana. She was responsible for the African World Festival and the securing of a $10 million grant from the Skillman Foundation, as well as the award winning program “Follow the North Star,” an interactive program that puts the visitor in the shoes of the runaway. Marcel studied Political Science and History at Hampton University.

Montpelier Marcel Sykes, Manager of Interpretive Programs, James Madison’s Montpelier

Prior to joining Montpelier, Marcel was Director of Education at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, and the Manager of Interpretation at Conner Prairie museum in Indiana. She was responsible for the African World Festival and the securing of a $10 million grant from the Skillman Foundation, as well as the award winning program “Follow the North Star,” an interactive program that puts the visitor in the shoes of the runaway. Marcel studied Political Science and History at Hampton University.

History 360

During this interactive session, Virginia Foundation for the humanities will help students rethink community history and storytelling using virtual reality, field podcasting, and Google 360 mapping.

Kelley Libby, Radio Producer, With Good Reason

Kelley Libby is a Virginia-based public media producer and community storyteller. She is the creator and producer of Unmonumental, a Localore: Finding America project, and a producer at With Good Reason, a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Kelley’s work has been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, Virginia Public Radio, and BackStory. She holds an MA in Writing and Rhetoric from Virginia Commonwealth University and attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

Peter Hedlund, Director of Encyclopedia Virginia

Peter Hedlund has been working in the field of digital media and technology for twenty years. From creating interactive teaching material related to early twentieth century Russian culture, to designing online simulations, to developing interactive maps Hedlund has sought to use technology to connect people and ideas. At Encyclopedia Virginia, Hedlund continues to look for innovative ways to tell Virginia’s stories.

Justin Reid, Director of African American Programs, VFH

Justin G. Reid is director of African American  programs at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, where he helps develop and support community programs and cultural initiatives across the state.  He also manages VFH’s digital collection of African  American historic sites and the General Assembly’s African American history task force. Justin previously  worked for the Moton Museum & National Historic Landmark, where he oversaw the 2013 opening of Moton’s national award-winning, $6 million permanent exhibition. The Farmville, Virginia, native was a founding board member of the annual Virginia Children’s Book Festival and co-founder of the College of William & Mary’s Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation.