Each summer new students entering the UVA Architectural History graduate program are introduced to field methods by working at the Birdwood Mansion just down the road from UVA Grounds. Past field methods classes have focused mainly on the dependency structures that surround the main house including the smokehouse, kitchen and cistern buildings. This year’s students are focused on the stone building at the south of the property.
The building has been referred to as the former slave quarters of the once active plantation at Birdwood. But it is unclear how the historical record regards this extant structure’s function. Students Michelle Colbert and Spencer Gervasoni will be working with Professor Andy Johnston to investigate documents, accounts, records and other references to determine the age, occupants and nature of the building. The class started this week with visits from Shayne Brandon of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) and Will Rourk of the UVA Library Scholars’ Lab. Shayne spent time showing students how to take key GPS readings for geolocating features near the structure.
Will spent the morning doing 3D laser scanning of the site interior and exterior to provide measured data for the students to use in their investigation. All of the data will contribute to past class research findings collected at The Cultural Landscape of Birdwood website.