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Foundations of Freedom: Historian Notes

John V. Quarstein
Foundations of Freedom Project Historian

John V. Quarstein is an award-winning historian, preservationist, and author. John has served as the director of the Virginia War Museum since 1978. In addition to these duties, he oversees the management of the City of Newport News’ historic properties including Endview Plantation, Lee Hall Mansion, Young’s Mill, and the Newsome House as well as serving as the historical advisor for The Mariners’ Museum’s U.S.S. Monitor Center project. He previously has served as an adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Quarstein is the author of seven books including Fort Monroe: The Key to the South,C.S.S. Virginia: Mistress of Hampton Roads, Civil War on the Virginia Peninsula, and The Battle of the Ironclads. He also serves as Historian for the local PBS affiliate WHRO and produces films documenting Hampton Roads history such as the ‘Here & Then’ and ‘Civil War in Hampton Road ’ series.

John V. Quarstein has provided a key leadership role for a wide variety of special historical, preservation and museum development projects. Quarstein has assisted in the creation or revitalization of 18 museums and aided the preservation and interpretation of numerous historic sites including The Ripken Museum, Williamsburg Battlefield, and Lee Hall Depot.

Mr. Quarstein was the recipient of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 1993 President’s Award for Historic Preservation Award and the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Jefferson Davis Gold Medal in 1999. Presently, he serves on the board of several national organizations including Virginia Civil War Trails, John Singleton Mosby Foundation, and Federal Area Development Authority for Fort Monroe.

In his capacity as Foundations of Freedom Project Historian, John plays a key role in assisting teachers with historical content comprehension.  This work is achieved via meetings with teachers to discuss history SOL-requirements as well as presenting workshops and tours providing detailed historical information.  The workshops and tours offer the reinforcement of complex historical themes.  A tour to Baltimore reviewed the 19th and 20th century growth and demise of an American industrial city highlighting port, commerce, immigration, and transportation themes.  This overnight excursion provided place-based reinforcement of historical people and events.  Several two-day workshops were also presented highlighting early 20th century events that prompted the United States to become a world power.  The World War I workshop combined film, hands-on activities and lecture to reinforce knowledge needed for presenting SOL-requirements. 

Mr. Quarstein is working on several projects for Foundations of Freedom that will result in a collection of resource materials that will be available for future use in the classroom. One of these major projects is described below:

Freedom Flashes,

Teachers participating in Foundations of Freedom I & II projects indicated how valuable it would be to have key SOL-requirement historical themes reinforced in a story-telling format.  After significant discussion and review, it was decided to create a series of (10) 2-minute format Freedom Flashes.  These episodes would highlight complex historical events connecting them to local sites.  The Project Historian visited Social Studies teachers in all participating high schools to glean information about which events would be best suited to the storytelling format use in the classroom.  After gathering this information, the themes were reviewed for SOL-relevance and then scripts prepared.  The first five segments are now under production.

COLD WAR:  This story details how Newport News ship building played a critical role in expanding the U.S. Navy following the Korean War.  The development of nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers at Newport News gave the United States the most powerful navy in the world and enhanced the Peninsula economy. 

RACE TO THE MOON:  This episode provided an overview of the beginnings of the NASA 'Mercury' program in Hampton.  All of the first astronauts trained at NASA Langley.  One of these men, Neil Armstrong, was the first man to walk on the moon.  The segment reinforced local place names ( Mercury Blvd., Grissom Library) associated with the Peninsula's part in the 'Race to the Moon'.

NEW DEAL-WPA: The WPA segment explained the regional and national economic importance of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's WPA by highlighting how today's Fort Eustis served as the largest WPA camp in the United States. Various local public work projects were highlighted within the episode.

INTEGRATION: The early Civil Rights movement in Hampton Roads focused on libraries and schools.  The program highlights how Newport News Schools addressed this system through busing.

ROBBER BARONS: John Rockefeller was one of the most successful of all Robber Barons during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  While he amassed an amazing fortune, Rockefeller also endowed several major community projects.  This episode tells the story of how Rockefeller became involved in the restoration of Virginia's colonial capital and Williamsburg's transformation into a major tourist destination. 

These Freedom Flashes will be made available on DVD to all teachers participating in the Foundations of Freedom programs as well as being aired on Hampton Roads' PBS affiliate, WHRO.



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