Update: Jan. 7, 2022
As 19th century ancestral remains arrive at VCU, researchers aim to learn more about who they were
"The 19th century human remains discovered in 1994 in an abandoned well on the MCV Campus were transferred Thursday from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to VCU's Department of Forensic Science. There, researchers will seek to understand more about who the people were and the cultural and historical context in which they lived.
....At VCU, researchers will work to answer questions developed by the Family Representative Council related to biochemical and DNA analysis of the remains.'Specifically these recommendations were related to implementing analyses that allow us to understand the regional genetic ancestry of the individuals; to identify the sex of children and younger or prepubertal adolescents whose sex cannot be determined by physical examination of the bones, to understand the health environments of the individuals and to allow the possibility of identifying connections between individuals whose remains were discovered with potential living descendants,' said Kevin Allison, Ph.D., senior executive for special projects in the VCU Office of the President."
Read the full story at https://news.vcu.edu/article/2022/01/as-19th-century-remains-arrive-at-researchers-aim-to-learn-more-about-who-they-were
Visit emsw.vcu.edu to experience the background information, resources, and updates to this very compelling public history project.
View the trailer of the documentary that launched the project: Until the Well Runs Dry: Medicine and the Exploitation of Black Bodies
The following are the closing paragraphs of a Richmond Magazine story summarizing the EMSW project as of April 2019. Read more media coverage at http://emsw.vcu.edu/media-coverage/.
- Return all ancestral remains to the city of Richmond.
- VCU should determine the feasibility of locating and retrieving remains possibly still located beneath the Kontos Medical Sciences Building.
- No further analysis of the human remains or associated artifacts should take place prior to the approval of an East Marshall Street Well Project research agenda developed with community input.
- Future analysis of artifacts associated with the remains should involve only nondestructive methods.
- Research should include the study of the long-term implications, impacts and relevance of the East Marshall Street Well site history for contemporary African-American medical experiences.
- DNA and microbial analysis of the remains should be undertaken for the specific purposes of 1) reconstructing regional genetic ancestry; 2) assessing molecular sex of juveniles; 3) reconstructing health environments; 4) identifying possible biological relationships with a targeted sample of living descendants.
- VCU should establish a research steering committee to assist with the request for proposal (RFP) development and the vetting and selection of proposals.
- Physical memorialization of the people whose remains were found and their experiences should be present at four locations within or near the Kontos Building. Most immediately, VCU should place signage indicating the excavation location and historical significance of the remains near the building entrance.
- Build an appropriate memorial and an interactive learning center at the site of interment.
- VCU should establish an annual memorialization event to be observed by all medical students prior to undertaking their first anatomy class.
- VCU should develop formal guidelines for appropriate university actions, including community engagement, in the event of the future discovery of human skeletal remains.
- VCU should establish a memorialization steering committee to assist with RFP development and the vetting and selection of proposals.
- VCU should initiate a formal study of 1) the legacy of slavery within the history of the university and 2) mechanisms for redressing this legacy.
- There should be an interment of all remains and associated artifacts underground at the African Burial Ground in Shockoe Bottom.
- Hold an interment ceremony designed by funerary experts in western African burial traditions in consultation with the Family Representative Council.
- Bury the remains and related artifacts in coffin boxes designed and crafted by West African artisans.
- VCU should establish an interment steering committee to assist with RFP development and the vetting and selection of proposals.
- Smithsonian Family Representative Council VCU African-American history East Marshall Street Well Project Richmond history