ChapelThe Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) announces keynote speakers, including nationally renowned anthropologist Dr. Michael Blakey, who will present at All Together Here: A Community Symposium for Discovery and Remembrance. The public symposium on the archeological findings at Oakwood Cemetery Chapel will take place online October 9-10, 2020. Registration is free and open to the public.

In 2016, during the rehabilitation of the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel, archeologists monitoring construction discovered the remains of men, women, and children beneath the chapel footprint. Following careful exhumation and analysis of the artifacts and burials that date from the 19th century, a detailed report with findings was released in May 2020.

Dr. Michael Blakey is an American anthropologist who specializes in physical anthropology and its connection to the history of African Americans. Since 2001, he has been a National Endowment for the Humanities professor at the College of William & Mary, where he directs the Institute for Historical Biology.

Dr. Maria Franklin, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology from the University of Texas stated, “This is an innovative symposium that bridges research, community engagement, and a collective conversation on how to best honor the men, women, and children who were recently discovered at Oakwood.” Dr. Franklin serves as a consultant to the symposium planning committee.

The symposium will be divided into two key themes:

Day 1: Discovery
Friday, October 9, 2020, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Day 1 sessions will address the archaeologist’s report and what it means. Participants will hear from the project team members involved in the exhumation, professional analysis as well as the impending reinterments. Additionally, researchers from the University of Connecticut who are partnering with the City of Austin, will discuss what DNA analysis can reveal about the individuals from the past and the opportunities for locating descendants.

Day 2: Remembrance
Saturday, October 10, 2020, noon to 5 p.m.

Day 2 sessions will cover the historical context of the people who were found and how the context expands our understanding of 19th century Austin, cemetery history, and cultural expressions of grief and reverence of ancestors. Panel discussions will explore on-site memorialization and programming to honor the individuals who were rediscovered.

The free two-day symposium will be broadcast online and through live social media channels. Sessions will be recorded and posted on PARD’s YouTube channel.

For more information on the symposium, visit the symposium website or the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel Rehabilitation project webpage.