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School Project Evolves into Acclaimed Exhibit on V.I. History

April 23, 2008 — Juniors and Seniors from All Saints Cathedral School rounded out their English and humanities classes this semester with a multimedia showcase that took viewers on a trip Wednesday through St. Thomas' historical past and into the present.
Forgoing the traditional end of the year term paper, the students created photos, PowerPoint presentations and traditional artwork. Though the show was only featured at Gallery St. Thomas for one day, it capitalized on the crowd already downtown for this year's cultural/food fair in Emancipation Garden.
Stepping out of the hot sun and into the air-conditioned shadows of the gallery, visitors browsed each presentation carefully, taking in the variety of images and historical facts projected onto the gallery's walls or scrolled across laptop computer screens set up in interactive media stations around the room.
"The project was inspired by a book by the late Edith deJongh Woods, with whom I had an email relationship before she died," said Aubrey A.C. Burgess, the school's advanced placement and honors English teacher. "She was giving me ideas on a class about V.I. history. So I tried to sell it to my students, and told them they could either do a term paper this year or a photo-essay project. They bit, and it evolved into a very marketable and important historical showcase."
Called "Charlotte Amalie Through a Lens," the show has even gotten the stamp of approval from the V.I. Council on the Arts, along with local historian Myron Jackson. The goal, Burgess said, is to compile all 15 projects onto a CD and "make it accessible" to libraries across the country.
The show started out with an "Introduction to Ol' Time Charlotte Amalie" — a historical photo essay containing photos of Main Street taken from the archives at Enid Baa Library.
"We were trying to create an archive of pieces of Main Street that have really been featured and chronicled at the public library, and juxtapose them with pictures that show how those pieces evolved over time," explained Nathan Pancham, an All Saints junior and one of the show's main producers. "It shows us where we come from, and how far we've gotten as a territory."
Photos in several different presentations included historical black-and-whites, sepia shots and brightly colored moderns.
Other visual presentations took viewers on a tour through the Cruetzer Plantation (now a small set of yellow and red brick ruins near John Brewer's Bay, the plantation once produced sugar and cotton), up and down many of St. Thomas' historical steps, and around the island's historical quarters for an architectural romp.
A video presentation from 11th-grader Khalil Chung also showed visitors the ins and outs of St. Thomas' newest development, Yacht Haven Grande, while other stations showcased the history of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral and the territory's Jewish population.
"The show is fabulous — it came out really perfect," said Chung, who handled all the project's tech work. "At first there were a lot of little things that went wrong with the setup, but we worked through everything, and ended up something great. I'm really proud of the whole team."
Monetary contributions made by visitors to the show will go toward the Junior Class Fund. The project also featured a "humanitarian showcase," where student presentations focused on Middle Eastern poetry and culture, the Harlem Renaissance and the works of William Shakespeare.
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