There’s no better time to start planning a trip to Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC). The site of Maryland’s first capital is a popular destination for wandering students enjoying the natural beauty of the area, but many may be interested by the current and future projects in the works for this coming year at Historic.
The unique interpretive approach at Historic offers visitors the combination of a living history and an ongoing archaeological site. On-site archaeology is a vital part of creating the museum’s exhibitions, and is one of the partnering aspects of the relationship between the College and Historic. Archaeology has played and will continue to play a key role in some of the most exciting projects and discoveries for HSMC. This summer, doctoral candidate Scott Tucker led the first underwater site exploration at Historic St. Mary’s City. What he and a crew of divers discovered was believed to be the wreckage of a 17th century trading vessel, abandoned in the St. Mary’s River. The findings represent just a fraction of the enormous archaeological value resting in the bottom of the Chesapeake.
This season will also be the beginning of planning for work on one of the lesser known historic buildings owned by the museum. The historic slave quarters, which resides on the property of the Brome-Howard Inn, is in the process of receiving funding and creating a planning report for turning the building into an interpretive site, meaning it will become a space preserved for exhibition. Although the process of getting beginning work is still in the early phases, the quarters can still be viewed by visitors to the museum. The duplex is also the subject of extensive research by doctoral candidate Terry Brock, who has created the blog “All of Us Would Walk Together” as an online exhibit centered on his research of the quarters. Brock, who is enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Michigan State, discussed with me his inspiration for choosing the slave quarters as the focus of his research. At the recommendation of his grandmother, and a colleague in the program, Brock paid a visit to Dr. Henry Miller of Historic. “I visited Henry, and we had a great afternoon. A few weeks later, he introduced me to the 19th century data from HSMC, and offered it to me for my dissertation. I’ve been working in it ever since…and that was in 2007.” says Brock.
Brock’s work focuses both on archaeology and documentary history to create a complete understanding of the site. The blog, which hosts information about many of his findings, includes everything from his work with artifacts such as window glass to his study of the accumulation of artifacts to understand which parts of the site were populated. (To view the full interview with Terry, go to The Point News website.)
Finally, the museum is bringing three of its most famous residents home at last. The most recent newsletter from Historic has announced plans to return the famous three lead coffins and the people they protect, Phillip Calvert and his family, to the Brick Chapel. The coffins were first recovered from the chapel site in December of 1990, and remain to this day one of HSMC’s greatest claims to fame in the archaeological community. The lead coffins were the subject of research and study by the Smithsonian for years after, while plans to return the Calverts to their resting place came and went. At long last, almost 23 years after their removal, the staff is making plans to create a crypt space for the Calverts, and for 67 other sets of remains found on chapel grounds.
Besides these long-term projects, Historic St. Mary’s City offers a huge variety of activities and special events for people of all ages on a regular basis. To learn more about the museum itself and upcoming events, go to www.stmaryscity.org, or pick up some literature at the Shop at Farthing’s Ordinary. To view “All of Us Would Walk Together,” go to https://www.stmaryscity.org/walktogether/.