LOC-GMU Field School 2013: Arlington National Cemetery

POTW 22 Apr 2013 Eastern redbud

The Field School for Cultural Documentation, a collaboration between George Mason University and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is set to begin on May 20.   For the last three weeks I have been prepping students who have applied for the course, in part to let them know my expectations (this is not a typical summer course) and to do preliminary field work at the cemetery to better prepare myself and the students for their whirlwind ethnographic experience.

The purpose of the course is to document the occupational culture of the cemetery using ethnography and oral history methods. The materials the students and I collect will be archived at the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans History Project.  This the first time in the history of Arlington National Cemetery that there has been a systematic documentation of workplace culture.

So far I’ve found working with the cemetery personnel extremely satisfying.  There is a clear chain of command (which I expected) and a strong commitment to this collaborative effort.

The students will present their preliminary research findings in the theatre of the Women in Military Service for American Memorial on Wednesday June 19, 2013 at 2 PM.  The event will be free and open to the public.

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One thought on “LOC-GMU Field School 2013: Arlington National Cemetery

  1. For any American citizen, Arlington Cemetery is a special place. For me and members of my family, it is the resting place of several loved ones.

    When my maternal randfather Alexander McLean Blair, who had served in WW I with the Richmond Light Infantry Blues (part of the 29th Infantry), was buried in Section 43 in 1962, there were no trees in sight. I was usually able to find his grave #2814 very easily due to its number. It was also in line with the Washington Monument. Today the Monument is obscured by vegetation. My grandfather’s grave and that of my beloved grandmother Marie Sullivan (“the most beautiful girl who ever came to Richmond” according to Mr. Thalheimer) are not easily found.

    Arlington Cemetery is also where my cousin Anne Blair Daly (named for my mother Anne McLean Blair), my aunt Marie (Blair) Daly and my Uncle Robert Charles Daly, sr (wounded March 15, 1945 at Remagen Bridge, the last crossing of the Rhine) are buried in Section 1.

    I was at the cemeteryon Monday, November 25, 1963 when the leaders of the world rode through in the funeral procession for the assasinated President of the United States. I’ll never forget that day.

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