America's Sacred Spaces (2018-2019)

The United States possesses singular places where citizens and others can visit to absorb elements of the nation’s depth of pain, triumph, awe, reverence, disappointments and dreams. “Sacred spaces” in this context refers to understanding America by literally standing in places and taking in layers of meaning that plumb the depths of our national character.  

This project team helped launch a multiyear, in-depth documentary research initiative to tell stories of 40 essential American places through an interactive website, app and field guide. Team members collected oral history narratives, images, maps, video and supplementary readings about two initial sites and identified people, community resources and archives to consult in each location. 

Key resources for this team included The National Park Service and The Library of Congress and the team collaborated with Duke research librarians and archivists to learn research methods and materials preservation.


Summer 2018 – Spring 2019  

Team Outputs

Charles D. Thompson, Jr. Rock Castle Home (documentary film). 2021.

What American Space Is Sacred to You? (poster by America’s Sacred Spaces team members, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019; runner up, Bass Connections Poster Competition, Audience Award)

Pilgrimage to America’s Sacred Spaces (PASS)


Hannah Ontiveros

This Team in the News

Mike Wiley to join Kenan Institute for Ethics as Artist in Residence; Will Co-Direct America’s Hallowed Ground

Rock Castle Home: A Disappearing Appalachian Community Shares Its Stories

These Ph.D. Graduates Leveraged Bass Connections and Other Interdisciplinary Opportunities

Making the Most of Duke on the Road to the Ph.D.

These Ph.D. Graduates Incorporated Bass Connections into Their Doctoral Education

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Team Leaders

  • Jedediah Purdy, Duke Law
  • Charles Thompson, Arts & Sciences-Cultural Anthropology

/graduate Team Members

  • Imani Mosley, Music-AM, Music-PHD
  • Jacob Moss, MFA/Experimental and Doc Arts
  • Hannah Ontiveros, History-AM, History-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Jane Booth, Art History (AB)
  • Mary Coyne, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Helen Healey, Visual and Media Studies (AB)
  • Yi Hui Hong, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Christine Kuesel, English (AB)
  • Yunjoo Lee, Visual and Media Studies (AB)
  • Samia Noor, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Gi Shin, Art History (AB)
  • Sawyer Uzzell, History (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Adriane Lentz-Smith, Arts & Sciences-History
  • Norman Wirzba, Divinity School

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Michelle Lanier, N.C. Division of State Historic Sites