By Shenise Foster
Alexandria’s history is rich, but it’s important to remember that Alexandrians were real people like you and me. In fact, that’s this year’s focus of the Alexandria Historical Society – educating folks on the life of everyday city residents over the centuries.
“It is my mission to stress that Alexandria history does not end in 1865,” Professor Krystyn Moon, president of the Alexandria Historical Society, said in a recent interview. “This year we will focus on documenting, sharing and celebrating the amazing stories that have occurred in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.”
Founded in 1974, the Alexandria Historical Society is a volunteer-based organization that strives to preserve, document and socialize the significant events that have occurred within Alexandria and reach beyond our local avenues to share our history with the nation.
Zebra caught up with Moon and Alexandria Historical Society Vice President Audrey Davis (who is also the director of the Alexandria Black History Museum) for a brief interview on the organization’s evolution and their plans for the year.
Zebra: What are some of the major accomplishments of the organization since it was founded in 1974?
Davis: The Alexandria History Award that is held in April every year is an event that we are very proud of. We have been doing the awards for many, many years and after T. Michael Miller retired we named it in his honor. During the ceremony we offer a major history award and sometimes a special merit award if someone has made an important stride in the preservation of Alexandrian history. Then we do a high school history award were teachers nominate students who have done interesting projects and excelled in history.
Also, in the last three years we have decided to branch out more and do things that were a little bit more different for us. For example, we had Lance Mallamo (retired director of the Office of Historic Alexandria) give a lecture on Civil War embalming in the vault at Ivy Hill Cemetery that took place on Halloween. In addition we hosted walking tours and a whiskey tasting event at the Gristmill & Distillery at Mount Vernon.
Zebra: What is the 2019 vision for the Alexandria Historical Society?
Moon: After I gave a talk on the history of Arlandria (Chirilagua), in the northern part of the city, part of my goal of getting involved in the Alexandria Historical Society was to do a better job and help the organization to tell the story of everyday people of Alexandria. We would focus on serving the broader community here in Alexandria, which often in history work gets left out of the conversation. It is my mission to stress that Alexandria history does not end in 1865. This year we will focus on documenting, sharing and celebrating the amazing stories that have occurred in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Zebra: How can the community get more involved with the Alexandria Historical Society?
Moon: The Alexandria Historical Society website is a great space for people to get engaged. There are back issues of the Chronicle that are organized by date and listed by title. We also have a listing of all the libraries, archives and other historical resources available within the city on the website. Anyone can also reach us on our Facebook page.
Davis: Anyone can also write into the Alexandria Historical Society with a history question. If we don’t know the answer we will direct them to the appropriate contact. However, I would like to clarify that if someone send artifacts to us as a donation, the Alexandria Historical Society does not keep them and instead will route the artifact to the appropriate museum within the Office of Historic Alexandria.
Zebra: What’s the one takeaway that you would like Zebra readers to know?
Moon: I hope that people realize that the Alexandria Historical Society is a group of interesting people that are really passionate about local history. We believe in rigorous historical research and programming that really reflects our local community.
The Alexandria Historical Society will also present the Alexandria History Awards at the Lyceum on April 22, and present the T. Michael Miller Alexandria History Award and pay tribute to local high school students. Then on May 22, the group will host “We Cannot Be Tame Spectators”: Three Centuries of Virginia Women’s History with Cindy Kierner, professor of history at George Mason University.