Skip to main content

Each year, The Graduate School honors graduate students in programs throughout our University for their powerful discoveries that contribute to a better future for people and communities in North Carolina. The Graduate School presents 11 Impact Awards and six Horizon Awards for 2020. 

Below is an example of one of the award winners. Read more about the all of the winners.

The Role of Landscape Management in Visitor Experiences of Historic Sites

Mary Biggs, master’s student in geography

Horizon Award


“Three state historic sites sit within 10 miles of downtown Durham: Historic Stagville, Bennett Place and Duke Homestead. All three narrate different moments in Durham’s history; however, the physical landscapes of each are strikingly similar today, dominated by mown grass lawns and surrounded by large stands of trees. Historic Stagville, especially, is noteworthy. Once the largest plantation in North Carolina, Stagville today is covered with trees that shade four original slave cabins from sight and sun. In 1860, however, no trees would have sheltered enslaved families from summer heat or the surveillance of the enslavers’ house on a nearby hill. Despite their designation as historic sites, these spaces are not static; rather, they must be continually maintained in the present with present-day priorities.

My research investigates how historical authenticity is constructed and experienced at public history sites in North Carolina, especially in the context of landscape change over time. I analyze the priorities of site staff responsible for managing historic landscapes alongside visitor experiences of both the landscapes and the history. I examine how present-day understandings of space and nature inform our understanding of history. In doing so, I seek to inform a more complete understanding of how Durham’s history is taught, and what this means for Durham’s present and future generations.”

“Mary’s timely project draws attention to the role of landscape in narrating the past and creating a living history experience in official North Carolina historic sites. Her analysis provides original insights about whose history is represented and how it is experienced,” said co-adviser Banu Gökarıksel, Ph.D.
Mary Biggs is also advised by Christian Lentz, Ph.D.

By The Graduate School

Comments are closed.