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June 7, 2011

Museum Professional Explores Excavation, Conservation of Two 19th-century African American Tombstones

Emily Williams, Colonial Williamsburg conservator of archaeological materials, discusses the excavation of two tombstones during the program, “Stories in Stone: The Excavation and Conservation of Two 19th-century Tombstones.” This hour-long program begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

Guests learn more about these tombstones unearthed during the construction of the College Corner Building in 2004. Colonial Williamsburg archaeologists excavated the area beneath the headstones and discovered the remains of two African American adults. To facilitate the re-interment, the City of Williamsburg donated adjacent plots in Cedar Grove Cemetery, and the Foundation provided new headstones that comply with cemetery regulations. The original headstones underwent treatment in the conservation laboratory at the Bruton Heights School Educational Center.

“One tombstone belongs to Lucy Ann Dunlop, a manumitted slave, and the other to Robert Hill, who we believe was her father,” Williams said. “I will talk about their excavation, the ethics of conserving tombstones, the treatment of the stones and some of the research we have conducted into these individuals, and the men who carved their grave markers.”

Williams earned a bachelor’s degree from Rice University and a master’s degree from the University of Durham in England. She has worked at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation since 1995. Since that time, she spent four months working at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle, Australia, researching the effects of iron removal treatments on the preservation of waterlogged ivory and bone, and aiding in the analysis of the acid-affected timbers from the wreck of the Batavia. Most recently, she curated the exhibition, “Conservation: Where Art and Science Meet.” In addition to her work at the Foundation, she has been the conservator for the Tell Umm el Marra excavations in Syria since 2006 and is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Mary Washington.

This is the fifth in a series of lectures on Colonial Williamsburg’s museums, collections and conservation that will be held through December 2011. Shelley Svoboda, Colonial Williamsburg conservator of paintings, discusses the history, ongoing conservation treatment and current research of the Carolina Room during the program, “Revealing Surfaces: Conserving a Southern Painted Room,” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 21.

A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket, museum pass or Good Neighbor Card provides access to this lecture.

Programs and exhibitions at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday through March 13. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121