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Meet Evergreen’s Caretaker: Ted Maris-Wolf

Published on November 1, 2017

We are proud to announce a new member of Enrichmond’s team to serve as Caretaker for Evergreen Cemetery. Ted Maris-Wolf joins us from Colonial Williamsburg, where he served as the vice president of education, research, and historical interpretation. In his new role as Caretaker, he oversees daily operations at the cemetery and will help guide the long-term strategy for its restoration. As an archeologist, historian, and teacher specializing in African American genealogy, Ted brings expertise to honoring and reclaiming the cemetery’s physical state, as well as its remembered and recorded past.

We asked Ted to tell us about himself and his role at Evergreen Cemetery:

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’ve always been interested in the past and in how and why ideas,
values, and ideals change over time.  Yes, I was that kid who would
still be listening to my grandparents’ stories, long after the other
kids had snuck away to play!  My interest in African American history
was sparked by my junior high school jazz band director, Frankie Ball,
who not only introduced me to the magical world of jazz improvisation
but to the people and traditions that gave birth to this all-American
musical tradition that embodies the hope, creativity, and resilience
of African Americans throughout our history.

What drew you to this position?

Evergreen Cemetery is a national treasure and is one of the great
open-air museums of African American history in our country.  It is in
need of care, curation, and long-term sustainability, and upon
learning of the position, I decided that I wanted to be a part of that
journey.  As an archaeologist, historian, and teacher, the Caretaker
position combines many of my interests, and there’s nothing more
rewarding than having the opportunity to learn, share, and collaborate
with families and volunteers on a daily basis.

How do you feel about Enrichmond and its role at Evergreen?

I continue to be impressed and inspired by Enrichmond’s desire to
preserve and restore Evergreen through a process that reflects my
values and training as a public archaeologist and historian.
Evergreen is a special place that holds a multitude of meanings and
connections to families, community members, and a range of
stakeholders, and Enrichmond’s approach respects and acknowledges the
diversity of those voices and perspectives. Every day, I meet families
with powerful connections to Evergreen, and each connection is
different and intensely personal.  The challenge will be to develop a
vision for Evergreen moving forward that is inclusive, coherent, and
clearly articulated to all stakeholders, so that all who are
passionate about this place will only feel more so.

Describe your approach to helping shape Evergreen’s future.

I love my job.  On the one hand, I oversee the nuts and bolts of the
60-acre site–working alongside numerous energetic folks who are
physically maintaining and restoring the landscape and grave sites on
a daily basis. On the other, I am able to develop partnerships,
conduct research, collaborate with scholars, and speak and write, so
that the restoration of Evergreen will proceed according to
professional best practices and in ways that properly honor those who
rest here, as well as their descendants.

What are you looking forward to as Caretaker?

At this moment in our national life, I wanted to dedicate myself to an
organization and mission that would help advance Americans’
understandings of African American contributions to the making of our
country and the formation and realization of our national ideals.  I
hope that in some small way, I can help play a role in bringing to
light not only the remarkable stories and accomplishments of
individuals like Maggie Walker and John Mitchell, Jr., but of the
everyday people who are less well-known who rest in Evergreen.  At a
time when many Americans are searching for heroes who might help
articulate where we want to go and who we want to be in the 21st
century, those whose stories live at Evergreen offer inspiration. I
look forward to helping to tell their stories in ways that fire the
imagination and cause us to want to be better people and to build
stronger communities, together.

What’s your favorite thing about your job so far?

My best moments are meeting, listening to, and learning from visiting
family members, who share stories, reflections, and suggestions with
me.  I love  learning and then finding opportunities to share what I
learn, along with the many questions that new knowledge brings.  Every
day brings its own questions, challenges, and opportunities, and I am
so fortunate and honored to be Evergreen’s Caretaker.