“Savannah’s not just magnolia blossoms and the pretty picture that we paint to all the tourists there’s a lot of things buried here,” says Laura Seifert, founder of the Savannah Archaeological Alliance, the city’s newest non-profit dedicated to archaeological education and advocacy.
On Thursday, the alliance will be launching their app, “Buried History: Savannah’s African American Legacy,” their first major project, which is supported by Georgia Humanities in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly and created on freeware designed by Emory University.Get Savannah arts & culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and food newsletters
With almost twenty years in the archeology field focusing on public archaeology, museums, and the Southeast, Seifert founded the alliance in July 2018 after instructing at Armstrong State University for the previous seven years.
The app — which doesn’t require any downloading — is mostly text based, runs off a web address, has a listen-along feature for maximum accessibility and features two different tours: the walking tour, which is largely focused within a two-mile radius of downtown, and a longer driving tour that would be “a bit much to walk,” laughs Seifert.
“The downtown tour starts at places like First Bryan Baptist Church and First African Baptist and takes you through mostly African American history. Some of the places have a tough history, like slave markets. Other places are a lot more positive and are about cultural persistence and success, places like The Kiah House and Museum. SCAD’s Kiah Hall is named after Virginia Kiah who had a free public museum at her home in the Cuyler Brownsville Neighborhood starting in 1959.”
While the launch party will largely focus on explaining the apps functions to attendees, Seifert says she’s most excited to curate a conversation surrounding the way history is talked about in Savannah. "There’s been a new push to tell all the stories in Savannah with The Owens Thomas House changing their official name to The Owens Thomas House and Slave Quarters, and The Davenport House redoing their interpretation to talk about not just the white family who lived there but the slaves as well," she said.
“I’m excited for this conversation because I’ve been seeing a lot of cool ideas about how to incorporate all of Savannah’s history because we should tell all the stories, even the ones that make us uncomfortable and this app is trying to do that. We show where the slave markets were and how integrated they were to the whole economy, everybody was involved, whether they liked it or not.”
Some stops get to tell two sides of the story, “One of the stops was originally a slave market. Later it became a Freedmen School in early 1865," said Seifert. "So it’s interesting to see a place that did such damage attempting to overcome that and turning it into something more positive. Really we just want to look at all of history and give a more realistic truthful narrative, we’re hoping to investigate how we can expand talking about history in Savannah and bringing the memory of the enslaved people who lived here more into people’s conscious.”