The Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) has awarded the President James K. Polk State Historic Site a Gold Award in the 2022 SEMC Technology Competition for The Enslaved Polks, a website illuminating the history of the people enslaved by the Polk family. The award, given in the Digital Education Under $1,000 Budget category, recognizes excellence in the use of technology within southeastern museums and celebrates the accomplishments of innovative work. Entries were judged by an appointed jury of museum professionals across the region who specialize in the fields of digital media and technology.
The website, created in Adobe Spark, follows the people that were enslaved by the Polks while the family lived in Mecklenburg County. The website includes a timeline of events in their lives, including their journey from North Carolina to other Polk family properties in Tennessee, Mississippi and beyond.
The site contains a wealth of information on these and other enslaved individuals, including names of those enslaved by President Polk throughout his life, details on the research process behind the website and an essay on the lives of several Black men who were enslaved on the Polks’ Mississippi plantation before joining the Union Army during the Civil War.
Staff worked closely with leadership in the Historic Sites Division of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Kate Moore, a former staff member of the President Polk Site, along with Division Historian Dr. Sarah Leonard, were instrumental in providing guidance and research. The project aligns with the Division of State Historic Sites' guiding value of True Inclusion, which in part seeks to amplify previously silenced narratives.
“This website is an important step forward in expanding the museum’s historical narrative to include the Polks’ role in the perpetuation of slavery in the United States,” said Scott Warren, site manager of the President James K. Polk State Historic Site. “Our work to uncover details and give voice to the enslaved Polks is just beginning, really. We’ll continue expanding the site as new information emerges.”
Award winners will be officially recognized at the 2022 Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony on Oct. 26, 2022, in Rogers, Ark. and will be featured in the Fall 2022 issue of Inside SEMC.
About the President James K. Polk State Historic Site
The President James K. Polk State Historic Site is the birthplace of the nation’s 11th president. Located in Mecklenburg County, N.C. on land once owned by James K. Polk’s parents, the site includes a museum and historic buildings that examine significant events in the Polk administration and life in the North Carolina backcountry during Polk’s childhood.
About the Southeastern Museums Conference
The Southeastern Museums Conference is the major regional networking organization for museums and their staff in the southeastern states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A non-profit membership association with almost 1,600 members, SEMC strives to increase educational and professional development opportunities and improve the interchange of ideas, information and cooperation.
About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state's natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state's history, conserving the state's natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, three science museums, three aquariums and Jennette's Pier, 41 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C. Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, and the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please visit www.ncdcr.gov.