African Burial Ground
GSA Wraps up Commitment to Archeological Site in Lower Manhattan
Video Length: 1 minute 7 seconds
With the opening of the new National Park Service Visitor Center for the African Burial Ground National Monument, GSA has fulfilled its commitment to the Lower Manhattan site it uncovered more than 18 years ago.
On the ground floor of the Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway, the 2,500-square-foot center tells the story of the contributions of enslaved and free Africans in the life and building of the early Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and later New York City. It also provides information on the discovery of the African Burial Ground and the role of the African descendant community in preserving the burial ground following its rediscovery by GSA in 1991.
"The African Burial Ground was an amazing discovery that opened a new chapter in America's story," said GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson. "With the completion and opening of the visitor center; the publication of the scientific research; and the return to New York City of the vast repository of records and other materials from GSA's African Burial Ground Project, GSA has fulfilled the promise of this amazing discovery and this agency's commitment."
The center includes four exhibit areas that flow from one to the other around a core area that features a burial re-creation with five life-size wax figures and ambient sound that allows visitors to experience a sense of what a burial at the site might have been like. In addition to the exhibit area, the center includes a 40-person theater, a multipurpose room for educational use, a research library, and a bookstore.
One of the most significant archaeological finds in U.S. history, the African Burial Ground is a 17th- and 18th-century cemetery that was rediscovered in 1991 when construction began on a federal office building in Lower Manhattan.
GSA's African Burial Ground Project was an extensive mitigation response to this unexpected discovery. The agency has played a pivotal role in completing various project components and partnering with the National Park Service on the conception and completion of both the exterior memorial at the national monument site and the visitor center.
The other major components of the GSA project included reinterment of the human remains at the site, which took place in 2005; the publication of the scientific research on the burial ground history, archaeology, and skeletal biology; and the recent return of the vast project repository to New York City, where records, files, documentation, and other materials related to the project will be retained at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a branch of the New York Public Library. Skeletal samples from the burial ground will remain housed at Howard University in Washington, DC, where the research was conducted.
The GSA African Burial Ground Project's success was recognized by the White House with a Preserve America Presidential Award in 2008. These awards honor exemplary work in the preservation of cultural or national heritage assets.