When I first logged on to the Virginia Department of Historical Resources to find a suitable highway marker I was quite overwhelmed; I hadn’t realized how many there were! I weighed the choices through the lens of personal context, I wanted to select a marker that had relevance to me on a physical proximity and personal level so that I could take responsibility and stewardship of my local communities’ history and stories. Ultimately, I went with a marker that I drive by on route 286 Fairfax County Parkway every day on my voyage to work: E-98 Fairfax Nike Missile Site. I also chose this particular marker because I’ve seen a Nike Missile in person (a dummy, of course) at my past duty station in Hampton, Virginia at their Air Power Park exhibit. Another reason this marker stuck in my brain is because I am in the Air Force and so I’m naturally interested in military related history.
After finishing Dr. Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s book Silencing the Past I want to keep in mind his concept of the inherent silencing that occurs when history is recorded and the “uneven power in historical production” (Trouillot, 44). Understanding his concept of Historicity 1 of ‘what happened’ and Historicity 2 of ‘what is said to have happened’ has expanded how I would normally understand museums, memorials, historical markers, anything that touches or purports to touch history.
I am now more aware of how power affects the creation and the memory of what happened in history and contextually that this power was at play when my marker was created.
Also, the understanding of traces, narratives, archives, and sources and how their interplay will be relevant to my new questions about my marker. The concept of silences, sources, traces, and archives in the process of historical production is at play in the creation of my marker and what I’m particularly interested in is what was the Fairfax Nike Missile Site was before it was used for military purposes. Some of the other questions I want to ask that are inspired by Dr. Trouillot are: Who owned this land previously, how did the area prior to the missile site interact with its community, what was the loss when it was converted to a missile site, and then how does the memory and marker of the Missile Site erase or replace of the previous area of what used to occupy this area?
Prior to reading Dr Trouillot’s book I would not have thought about how the roots of power can inadvertently or directly silence facts and narratives about an area. I understand that not every silence is a conspiracy, nor is every trace or source an intent slight, however, Dr. Trouilliot has impressed upon me the curiosity to ask: why did the Fairfax Nike Missile Site marker get submitted and approved? What does the fact of its physical existence mean and how does this memory edge out other memories in the area? I’m excited to dig into these questions and attempt to uncover silences with the concepts and formulas Dr. Trouilliot elucidated in his book in regards to sources, archives, narratives, and how they all affect memory.