The Valentine Richmond History Center holds a monthly Community Conversation series about significant areas of Richmond — Monroe Park, Shockoe Bottom, the canal. They’re convened at restaurants in the areas being discussed. Part of the goal is to bring strangers together for a dialogue about that neighborhood’s future. Another function is to gather memories from attendees. Cards are distributed so people can write down their first recollections of the neighborhoods, an important way for the Valentine to collect oral histories. And those cards go into the collection. “Fifty or 100 years from now,” Valentine Director Bill Martin says, “the only record we’ll have of what people thought about this time we’re living in will be publications, because no one writes diaries or letters anymore.” At the Shockoe Bottom conversation, one woman wrote about a fish market on the canal while another had fond memories of a boat restaurant with the best fried oysters — places that most people in the room had no knowledge of. One woman wrote of her great-grandfather, a black soldier who helped free slaves from Lumpkin’s Jail. History-makers, all.
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