The first year of the Witness Tree Project focused on a pecan tree that had stood for over 150 years at the Hampton National Historic Site, a former plantation outside of Baltimore. In the Hampton curriculum, students explored the meanings of refinement, slavery, and historic preservation through readings and lectures in 19th century American history and public memory, and engaged in concrete investigation of the Hampton pecan tree's provenance, location, and material properties. Guests included Seth Rockman, Assistant Professor of History at Brown University and author of Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore, and Louis Hutchins, Senior Curator with the National Park Service. Students' designed objects--a rustic stool, a courting bench, or a gaming table, to name a few--were deeply informed by such study. Overall, students offered insightful recommendations regarding the Park's ongoing efforts at preserving and interpreting plantation culture in the Upper South. The course ended with public critiques, attended by the RISD community and other guests, as well as a successful exhibition of the students' work at Hampton.
Paul Blitzel with downed pecan tree
Pecan tree being cut up
The lumber at Hampton
Lumber at the kiln
A seminar critique