Taking Lena Home
- Visual Arts
"Taking Lena Home" is a film that documents the return of a tombstone stolen in 1945 from the cemetery in Polk, Nebraska. In 2000, on a road-trip through Wyoming, I purchased the tombstone of Lena Davis, who died in 1880 at the age of 8 months. Eleven years later, in 2011, I decided Lena’s stone should go home. But where was that? What I discovered, by accident and via the internet, is that Lena’s missing tombstone was the longest unsolved crime in Polk, Nebraska. The film documents my second road-trip with Lena’s tombstone: driving it home from California to Nebraska. Along the way I will meet with members of Lena’s family; the woman who connected me to the tombstone’s true home; and the sheriff from nearby Osceola, who may not yet have caught the thief, but can safely return a stolen artifact.When I bought the tombstone at an antique store in Buffalo, Wyoming, I never dreamt that I was purchasing a stolen artifact (nor did the man who sold it to me). A first cousein of Lena’s -- still living! -- remembers when her tombstone was stolen in 1945 (he was 10 years old). He never imagined that he’d see it again. The film documents the return of the tombstone and the effect it has on all the people involved. Along the road, the film is an opportunity to explore ancestry and family history, reflect on early immigrant experience to the American West, and the role historical artifacts have in connecting us to greater narratives. And it’s also my story of trying to do the right thing by returning a stolen object. The money raised on USA Projects will pay for the creation of this film. The first part of the project will take place this year over a period of two weeks, which includes the trip to return the tombstone and visit the people involved. The minimum amount of funding -- $8,500 – will go towards this phase of the project, to take place in November and December of this year. The second part of the project is for a second trip to Polk -- via plane! -- in the spring of 2012. When the ground isn’t frozen, Lena’s stone can be set alongside that of her family.
Finishing the film will require more research and editing. The process of returning the stone will be about discovery and reveal more pieces of the puzzle-- and hopefully inspire more people to think about geneology and the cemetery as local museum of history. Thank you in advance for your generosity.