Island Free Press: New photo exhibition unveiled at Salvo Community Cemetery

A team of local residents are helping set up the new photo exhibit on September 16. [photo by Justin Cook]

By Joy Crist,
A new outdoor photo exhibit was recently unveiled at the Salvo Community Cemetery, also known as the Salvo Day Use Cemetery, which describes the history of the region, efforts over the years to attract l Attention to the historic site and the continuing threat of erosion to the soundside Salvo, and the Outer Banks in general.

Salvo Community Cemetery before the 2018 renovations

The new exhibit, which consists of a 41.5-foot-long, weather-resistant mesh banner, includes photos of Hatteras Island residents buried at the cemetery, as well as a summary of the cemetery’s role in history. of the island and challenges the site continues to face in the age of climate change.

The nearly 150-year-old cemetery, which is bordered on all sides by National Park Service land in the popular day-use area of ​​Salvo, was continually battered by storms and erosion, especially over the past 10 to 20 years.

In 2016, headstones were broken, washed away or removed by worried family members who feared they would disappear altogether, and the graves were becoming exposed as the waterfront area gradually receded from an assault. regular high water and waves. Two local groups, the Hatteras Island Genealogical and Historic Preservation Society and the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Civic Association, responded by launching fundraising campaigns to raise the estimated $ 120,000 to protect the site, and in the years that followed, the group was able to add a protective partition and a protective barrier against riprap, as well as the installation of fences and signs indicating the importance of the site.

Salvo Community Cemetery prior to the 2018 renovations.

The new public art exhibition is the latest in a long line of improvements to the Salvo Community Cemetery. the story that follows.

Cook has his own connections to the Outer Banks, with family roots in Stumpy Point and distant relatives who lived on Hatteras Island. His interest in his own family, as well as his passion for examining the effects of climate change, led to a grant from the Connected Coast Initiative of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in 2020, for his project published by Coastal Review, Tide and time.

“It’s actually a combination of some of the reports I made for the bigger [Tide and Times] project, and [conversations with] local residents like Robin Daniels Holt who did a bunch of actual field research like who is buried here and when it was founded, ”Cook said. “And that was kind of the goal of this project – to make it as collaborative as possible with the people who live here.”

Working with the Photoville company, Cook analyzed countless photographs shared with him by local residents to create the banner, which took about a month. Volunteers from the island rallied along the way, providing more information or measuring the fence itself so the banner could easily be attached to her new home.

The ensuing photo collection in the exhibit includes photos of the Salvo Community Cemetery at its lowest point, when gravestones sank into the water and visitors regularly walked over the graves, but it also includes historical and current photos of islanders with connections to the cemetery itself.

Bonny Pugh-Somers, Jean Hooper and Jenny Creech help tie the banner to the fence at Salvo Community Cemetery. Photo by Justin Cook.

“I’ve seen a lot of really good work done on sea level rise on the Outer Banks in particular, and the approach taken is often very broad,” Cook said. “It was an opportunity to focus on this very small area and tell a story that is not only about the effects of the erosion caused on the landscape, but also the effects on the people related to the ecosystem that make them. surrounded.”

“It’s very easy to say, ‘Well, why don’t you move? “But that’s not the solution,” he added. “People have a deep connection to the Outer Banks and this land, and I wanted to tell this story… People see the picture of Miss Jean standing in the water, and she could be anyone’s grandmother. “

Cook wanted local residents to see their own stories in the exhibit, but he also wanted to reach a wider audience of visitors, who might not know much about the history of the Outer Banks, the local effects of erosion and of climate change, or how the two are connected.

“The Salvo day-use area is one of the busiest beaches on the island,” he said. “People might not go to museums or visitor centers to see exhibits, especially with the pandemic going on, but they won’t miss this exhibit – it’s right in front of them. “

“I wanted the locals to see each other, but I also wanted the tourists to understand what is going on here and how we are all contributing,” Cook said. “There are people who kind of believe in climate change and understand what’s going on, but are not yet quite activated to really think about it. I hope that this type of project makes the connection and shows more the effects on a daily basis on people who are like them.

Justin Cook, creator of the new photo exhibition.

The exhibition is an original idea of ​​Cook, but the project has also received financial backing or support from a number of organizations, including Photoville, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Pulitzer Center, The Coastal Review and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Cook also thanks the local residents and those involved in supporting the Salvo Community Cemetery for the realization of the new exhibition, and who showed up on the morning of the opening of the exhibition (September 16) to help with the installation.

“The spirit of them trying to preserve the cemetery is what [started this project] in the first place, ”Cook said. “It was very collaborative, and there were so many different organizations they were working with, and that’s kind of how I wanted to approach it too – as a collaboration. “

“It was really fun working on it, it was a lot of hard work, and I met a lot of really amazing people along the way,” he added. “At the end of the day, it’s their story, not mine, and they trusted me. And I just hope I did him justice.

The new exhibit can be viewed at the public beach access of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Day Use Area, which is located on the sound side of NC Hwy 12 at the northern border of the village of Salvo.

Photo by Justin Cook
Photo by Joy Crist
Photo by Joy Crist

This story originally appeared on Read more local stories here.

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