Serrano Wins Grant to Document African-American Burial Grounds

Thursday, April 18, 2024
By: Kyle Niblett

University of Florida Department of Landscape Architecture Assistant Professor Nicholas Serrano was recently awarded the 2024 Research Incentive Award, the Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC) announced this past month. Joined by Annicia Streete and Brendan Harmon from Louisiana State University, the trio’s project aims to prototype a method for digitally documenting and creating immersive models of African American burial grounds in the American South.

“As a co-PI on the team, I am honored that the wider architectural research community recognized the value of our work,” Serrano said. “It means a lot that they want to support us moving forward.”

The ARCC Research Incentive Award aims to support and promote high‐quality architectural research and scholarship activities in ARCC member schools. The award provides faculty in ARCC member schools with financial resources to support and enhance their research and creative activities and to develop their research agendas.

“The invaluable burial grounds of enslaved African Americans and their descendants are unfortunately a weakly preserved part of our cultural heritage,” Serrano explained. “Whether they are at a risk of conversion into agricultural fields, petroleum refineries or chemical plants, we have found that most of these locations are undocumented and inaccessible. Typically, the ones that do remain are clusters of concrete or stone markers under a relict stand of old growth and heritage trees. These are important cultural landscapes.”

After digitally scanning a cemetery, Serrano and his colleagues plan to map historical, material, ecological, and acoustic data to the point cloud model hosted on an interactive web viewer. Their objectives are to compile a comprehensive digital record of these landscapes and create an immersive experience showcasing their cultural heritage.

“We look forward to celebrating the cultural importance of African American cemeteries on former plantation grounds,” Serrano finished with. “This is the first step in a larger initiative in preserving and highlighting the history of African American cemeteries, most recently culminating in the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act of December 2022 (H.R. 6805 and S. 3667).”

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