Written by Tyler J. Goldberger and Kody W. Grant
On Tuesday, March 28, 2023, Special Collections Research Center was delighted to collaborate with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in welcoming over 25 guests and staff of the American Indian Initiative. The delegation included guests from various local Virginia Native American tribes. Over the course of our time together, we had the opportunity to introduce and share some of the collections at the SCRC related to the Brafferton Estate and Native American experiences. We took time to reflect on William & Mary’s relationship with Native tribes and peoples as a collective group.
We were able to showcase a wide variety of collections that spoke to how Native Americans are represented in the SCRC's archival collections. Big Cove Ranch Camp Scrapbook and Interpretations of Blackfeet Indian picto-graphs, among other displayed materials demonstrated the importance of continuing to prioritize Native and other marginalized voices in our collections. The Native American Stereoview Collection captivated our visitors, especially the children!
We also fielded various research questions from members of the American Indian Initiative. Many of our visitors inquired about tracing their ancestors to William & Mary and its land. We pointed our guests to resources and materials that could help answer their questions, opening our space to support research from the broader community.
After an exciting open house, Dr. Danielle Moretti-Langholtz joined us to share portions of her research on the Brafferton Indian School and its ongoing legacies. She shed light on the purpose of the Brafferton Indian School to serve as a space to anglicize and educate Native children who simultaneously served as translators between English colonists and Native tribespeople. Her lecture incorporated many materials and lessons publicized in our newest lobby exhibit.
“Remembering: William & Mary’s Brafferton Indian School 1723-2023” honors the 300th anniversary of the erection of the physical structure of the Brafferton Indian School. The exhibit, curated by Dr. Moretti-Langholtz with assistance from our Exhibits and Artifacts Curator, Jennie Davy, educates the broader public on the history and legacies of the Brafferton, utilizing special collections materials to illustrate the importance of primary source research. This exhibit focuses on the trans-Atlantic relationship between Sir Robert Boyle’s estate in Yorkshire, England and its role in founding and funding the Brafferton.
Our conviction at Special Collections supports making our collections accessible and available to our students, staff, faculty, and community members. As a repository of the past, it is our job to encourage and welcome everyone to tackle their intellectual research and curiosities. This event serves as an important step to showcase our collections, collaborate with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and invite members of our community to participate in learning and sharing about their pasts.
We look forward to welcoming more groups as we continue to share all that Special Collections has to offer! If you are interested in connecting and following the work of the American Indian Initiative, please join their Facebook group here.