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 attention to the historic site and the continued threat of coastal erosion down to the soundside Salvo and the Outer Banks in general.
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 Salvo day-use area, has been continually battered by storms and erosion, especially during the Last 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.
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.
“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 really 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 aren’t quite activated yet 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.
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 Highway 12 at the northern border of the village of Salvo.