Camp Barker Memorial

Garrison Elementary School, Washington D.C.


The Camp Barker Memorial honors Garrison Elementary School's history as the site of a 'contraband camp.' The original buildings were developed as barracks for Civil War soldiers but later became temporary accommodations for formerly enslaved persons, legally considered ‘contraband’ at the time. The portals recall the informal settlement of Camp Barker, with a series of structures which vary in scale, allowing for passage and spaces for reflection. The exterior charred wood recalls the strength and hardship of the community that grew out of this camp. Hardened and enduring, charred wood is UV, weather, rot, fire, and insect resistant. The reflective brass interior asks viewers to see and consider themselves in relationship to the site’s history. The portals feature narrative bas relief panels by sculptor Vinnie Bagwell. Photography by Sam Oberter.