Tidewater Main Street Project (TMP)
The Tidewater Main Street Project (TMP) is dedicated to documenting the traditions, folklore, and history of the rural communities in the tidewater region of Virginia through student fieldwork and community engagement. Since 2014, SPOHP has been leading student fieldwork trips to Virginia to build upon its 200+ oral history collection.
- The 200+ oral history interviews for the Tidewater Main Street Project are currently available online. Additional interviews will be added and processed on an ongoing basis.
- Student podcasts
- SPOHP in the Virginia Tidewater Video Series
Drawing from the Mississippi Freedom Project’s long-standing energy, the SPOHP in the tidewater inaugural fieldwork trip disembarked from Gainesville in late October 2014. The focus of our inaugural research trip was to establish and navigate community relationships responsibly, with an eye towards future research interests. Our travels culminated in a public discussion between academic professionals and residents, who held in common a deep interest in oral history and concern for local preservation efforts. They were followed the next day by a six-hour interviewing methodology workshop led by UF staff and students and well-attended by community members. Over one hundred people were drawn from the four surrounding counties—some taking on over an hour-long drive—for the discussion on folklore, and fifteen people made the trip the next morning for the workshop. Finally, at our “Share Your Stories! Open House,” a new first-come, first-serve method of collecting interviews, in under three hours students and staff interviewed fifteen people. Oral histories with thirty people were collected and archived, a huge success.
Our fieldwork in Virginia not only demonstrated the usefulness of history to UF students, but the utility of the major in their own lives. Our research put achieving history majors into conversation with professionals in the fields of digital humanities, law, nonprofit work, archaeology, folklore, and American Studies. Assisting in an archaeological dig for a day, collecting ghost stories, and meeting one-on-one with academics and alternative academics gave students an opportunity to think about the next steps in their careers. Watching professionals in action demonstrated that not only can liberal arts majors make a living, but that historians live in the present, too, with a use and relevance to the communities in which they live. Several of the undergraduates maintain connections with interviewees and professionals, from students applying to graduate school speaking with professors, to interns who celebrated a fisherman’s eightieth birthday via phone this year. The possibilities of this project sustain the interest and enthusiasm of students who approach it with different backgrounds and interests.
-Dr. Jessica Taylor
The Tidewater Main Street Project has collaborated with various public organizations in Virginia and across the south to document the history of the Virginia Tidewater. These organizations include the Fairfield Foundation, the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust, Mathews Historical Society, Foundation for Historic Christ Church, Reedville Fishermen’s Museum, Mathews Maritime Museum, Rice Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern Foundation, and many more! These collaborations have focused on subjects such as the fishing industry, Merchant Marines, country stores, historic preservation, etc.. In the summer of 2018, Dr. Jessica Taylor and Patrick Daglaris worked with the Southern Foodways Alliance to conduct interviews focusing on how local foodways define and affect rural communities throughout the tidewater region.