About the Project

Usually, archaeologists dig into the ground to uncover the stories of the past. In Orange, we already have a hole in the ground where the highway runs through town.

In the 1960s Interstate 280 was built for commuters, bisecting the small industrial city of Orange and undermining the connectivity of the whole. Led by local artists university social archaeologists, our project will create shared experiences and public art programs to help regain social cohesion and facilitate a new community narrative.

A lot has changed about Orange since the 1960s when Interstate 280 divided the city in half. To build the interstate, hundreds of homes, shops, and community spaces were torn down, and many people left Orange for other towns. Our team is doing a “Reverse Archaeology” of I-280 to discover the stories of Orange. What was Orange like before the highway? What drew current residents to Orange after so many people left? What do people need to stay in Orange? Together with residents of Orange we want to look past the divided city and understand the Orange as a whole – past, present and future.

The Reverse Archaeology project, funded by ArtPlace America, is documenting and interpreting the effect of Interstate-280 in Orange, NJ. I-280 was constructed in the late 1960s, and its path cut through the heart of Orange, devastating the city’s historic African American and Italian American communities. The project is using oral history, ethnography, artist interventions and community engagement to understand the stories of I-280, to know more about how communities thrived before its construction and to document what it will take for current residents to “plan to stay.”

Our efforts are executed in a manner that enhances rather than displaces current residents.  We value sharing resources and insights, making sure all voices and perspectives have a place in the process, and advancing the economic position of our residents and associated artists.  Our partnership includes: ValleyArts, Montclair State University, the University of Orange, ORNG Ink, LunaStage and HANDS.