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Looking Back to Move Forward: Urban Renewal, Salvage Archaeology, and Historical Reckoning in Alexandria, Virginia

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Abstract

Dissent over what merits preservation and constitutes progress undergirds Alexandria Archaeology’s establishment. This program is rooted in mid-20th-century urban renewal. In demolishing several blocks and removing people of color and poor whites from the city’s downtown, officials hoped to reinvent this area as a haven for white, middle-class residents and tourists drawn to Alexandria by its historic character. During demolition, a group of concerned citizens noted that bulldozers were removing archaeological resources as well as “blight” in the name of progress. They established an archaeology program dedicated to mitigating these effects. These early archaeological projects privileged some histories, however, focusing on 18th-century, elite, white history instead of on the diverse 19th-century community that had once existed on the blocks. These archaeological collections provide insight into the dissonance of historical interpretation. This article explores how new analyses of older collections give voice to some of these lesser-known histories

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Notes

  1. <https://www.alexandriava.gov/Archaeology>.

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Niculescu, T. Looking Back to Move Forward: Urban Renewal, Salvage Archaeology, and Historical Reckoning in Alexandria, Virginia. Hist Arch (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41636-024-00498-4

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