Following a Spring 2019 student anthropology class project, this summer we are excited to launch a small exhibition highlighting artifacts from archaeological excavations of Kitty Foster’s home site adjacent to campus. Sponsored by the University of Virginia’s Bicentennial Commission, this effort has increased our knowledge of the University’s relationship with the local African American community in the nineteenth century and allowed us to responsibly catalog and store important these historical artifacts for future researchers.
The Foster Site Collection relates to archaeological materials discovered and safeguarded during various construction projects on Venable Lane in the 1990s and early 2000s. The collection is named in recognition of Catherine ("Kitty") Foster and the members of her family who lived and worked in "Canada," a historically African American site just south of the University’s historic boundaries.
The exhibit will feature objects that reflect daily life in Canada, including children’s toys, buttons and sewing equipment, architectural fragments from Kitty Foster’s home, and evidence of the family’s connection to the local community, the regional area and nineteenth century burgeoning national trade. Taken together with the history of the area, these artifacts shed light on the humanity of the site’s residents. Generations of free black women and children lived and worked in those spaces, supporting the University community and nurturing their own careers and domestic spaces.
Below: Marbles and shoe fragments were among the items uncovered during archaeological investigations on the Catherine Foster home site. Undergraduate students participated in a semester-long course to catalog and responsibly store these historical artifacts.