Posts Tagged 'history'

1812 Star-Spangled Conference, part deux

I grew up in Riverdale, Maryland, so attending the Star-Spangled 200 Conference at the historic Riversdale Mansion in Prince George’s County last week was somewhat of a homecoming for me. The last time I visited Riversdale I was collecting information to write a paper for a grad school class (the docent, by the way, that gave me the house and kitchen tour was so good!). This time around we didn’t do the house tour, but got some great information from the War of 1812 historians, Dr. Ralph Eshleman and Vince Vaise.

Why the War of 1812? In 2009? We have to plan ahead, of course. The State of Maryland played a pivotal role in the conflict (which began when the United States declared war on Great Britain 30 years after the American Revolution) and commemorative events are being planned state-wide. Lest the nation, and especially Marylanders, forget – our National Anthem was derived during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry in 1814. As an aside, a significant piece of information I gathered during the conference came from local music historian, David Hildebrand, who told me that the description of the music to which Key’s poem, the Star-Spangled Banner, was set to was not a rowdy English drinking song, but more of a lilting “gentlemen’s club” kind-of tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Go ahead, give it a hum…O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light…

I really enjoyed the rest of the day too. I was able to visit historic Bostwick in Bladensburg, where Don Linebaugh of the University of Maryland (and one of my former professors!) gave us  a tour and talked about the various preservation programs taking place at the house. We then drove over to the Bladensburg Waterfront Park for lunch and a walking tour of the 1814 Battle of Bladensburg area, took a drive through  historic Fort Lincoln Cemetery, then made our way to Mount Calvert Historical and Archaeological Park in Upper Marlboro where an archaeological excavation was in progress.

In difficult times like those we are in now, I tend to avoid using the word “celebrate” regarding past conflicts. However, we should remember that the legacy of the War of 1812 is the enduring friendship among the U.S., Canada, and England where there once was rancor.

To learn more about the War of 1812 and Maryland’s role in the conflict, I highly encourage you to visit www.starspangled200.org. The Four Rivers Heritage Area also supports organizations and sites that are seeking ways to commemorate 1812 events that took place in the heritage area. For more information, visit www.fourriversheritage.org or send us an email: heritage_area@aacounty.org.

–Aleithea

Historic Bostwick in Bladensburg. Notice the asymmetry between the dormers, second floor windows, and portico. Interesting...

Historic Bostwick in Bladensburg. Notice the asymmetry between the dormers, second floor windows, and portico. Interesting...

At Bladensburg Waterfront Park, a lone egret. Gorgeous!

At Bladensburg Waterfront Park, a lone egret. Gorgeous!

Panoramic view of Mount Calvert (far left) and the adjacent Patuxent River. The mansion houses a multi-room exhibition.

Panoramic view of Mount Calvert (far left) and the adjacent Patuxent River. The mansion houses a multi-room exhibition.

Actor Extraordinaire…Me

On September 15, 2009 museum docents, live interpreters, and living history performers came together at Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater to learn about new research on “Best Practices” in the field. Our leader for the event was Dale Jones, founder of Making History Connections, based right here in Maryland.

After watching a slideshow and a 10-minute segment of an informative video, Dale asked us to break into groups, gave each group an identical scenario, and asked that we figure out how to present the situation using whatever “voices” we thought appropriate. Did I mention this scene was supposed to take place in the 19th century? Oh boy.

I had to “act” out this scene playing the injured, and near-coma, young man who had just been hit by a fire engine (and not very convincingly, I was told). I haven’t acted since my senior year in high school last millennium. Luckily we had the very talented Scotti Preston, noted local performer, in our group.

I have a whole new appreciation for the individuals that do this type of historic interpretation. It takes a lot of practice and getting to know your audience. Engaging with the audience, finding common ground with them, knowing your own voice, and intuitively sensing the group dynamic all play into it. And since history isn’t always pretty, controversial subject matter sometimes makes visitors uneasy. Interpreters have to know how to handle it gracefully, and with diplomacy, yet remain “authentic” all at the same time.

Docents, interpreters, performers, historic re-enactors – what are your thoughts on the best practices in this field? Submit a comment below to start the discussion. If you attended the September 15 workshop and have ideas for another workshop, please let us know by emailing us or submitting a comment.  

If you missed my cringe-worthy performance, maybe you will get lucky by attending our next (to be determined) training workshop where I promise to deliver an Oscar-worthy soliloquy from a Neil Simon play. On second thought…

-Aleithea

Another group acts out the boy meets fire engine scene. I refused to lay on the floor due to having a skirt on. She (the woman in white) was much more convincing.

Another group acts out the boy meets fire engine scene. I refused to lay on the floor due to having a skirt on. She (the woman in white) was much more convincing.

The chairs are all askew from moving them to perform our scene, but the workshop was very well attended as you can see!

The chairs are all askew from moving them to perform our scene, but the workshop was very well attended as you can see!

Participants engaged each other by asking great questions and sharing experiences.

Participants engaged each other by asking great questions and sharing experiences.

A Day in Southern Anne Arundel County

Last week, Four Rivers Heritage Area was so pleased to host a tour of one of the region’s “hidden” treasures – Southern Anne Arundel County – for the staff of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau (the “CVB”). South County really could be considered Maryland in microcosm with its rural and agricultural landscapes, water front communities, horse farms, fruit and vegetable farms, marinas, wildlife, and, of course, historic places. It was such a treat to spend all day touring this part of the county that we want to share some of the images from these special places with our readers.

We began the day by heading down to Historic London Town and Gardens where Executive Director Donna Ware gave everyone a tour of the Visitors’ Center, Archaeology Lab, gardens, and reconstructed and original historic buildings.
 
We then drove down Muddy Creek Road to Galesville’s historic Main Street where Roberta Cassard and Norman Hazard of the Galesville Heritage Society shared the town’s rich maritime history with a tour of the Galesville Heritage Museum.
 
Executive Director Laurel Fletcher met us at the Captain Salem Avery Museum where we took a walk on the pier leading down to the West River and checked out a crab trap. Laurel also gave a tour of the inside of the museum where fantastic family heirlooms and other historic artifacts are neatly curated.
A delicious lunch, incorporating local peaches and rockfish, was provided by the staff of Herrington Harbour South, a local marina and resort. Anna Chaney Willman, the marina’s catering director, gave us an inside look at the “greening” initiatives of the marina and resort, such as wash water recycling, energy efficiency, and the creation of marsh land for wildlife habitat. We hopped over to Herrington Harbour North where Ruth Hazen of the Deale Area Historical Society gave a tour of the Historic Village situated at the entrance of the marina.
Last stop was the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) during which Karen McDonald talked about SERC’s education and public programs. John Parker of the Terrestrial Ecology department also took the group up to the ruins of the Contee Mansion, on top of a steep hill, to share a spectacular view of the Rhode River.
Thank you to all of our hosts and to the CVB for allowing us to share the rich heritage of South County with them. Visit the Four Rivers website to download a variety of brochures to help you create your own tour of South County. Explore, Experience, Discover Four Rivers and Landings (for all you boaters) are available online! Give us a call at 410-222-1805 or send a request to heritage_area@aacounty.org and we will send you a copy of our large History Explorer’s Map with detailed information about dozens of historic sites in the Heritage Area.
 Happy trails! – Aleithea
View of one of the gardens. Can you spot the tobacco?

View of one of the Historic London Town gardens. Can you spot the tobacco?

 

The gang talks with Roberta Cassard on the steps of the Galesville Heritage Museum (photo by Susan Steckman)

The gang talks with Roberta Cassard on the steps of the Galesville Heritage Museum (photo by Susan Steckman)

 

Laurel Fletcher pulls up the crab trap (Photo by Susan Steckman)

Laurel Fletcher pulls up the crab trap (Photo by Susan Steckman)

 

This sign post marks a segment of Herrington Harbour's mile-long eco-trail.

This sign post marks a segment of Herrington Harbour's mile-long eco-trail.

 

We spent some time at the Nutwell Schoolhouse at the Herrington Harbour Historic Village

We spent some time at the Nutwell Schoolhouse at the Herrington Harbour Historic Village

 

The pier at SERC overlooks a canoe/kayak ramp. I took this photo from a relaxing gazebo.

The pier at SERC overlooks a canoe/kayak ramp. I took this photo from a relaxing gazebo.

Preserving the Chesapeake Bay – My time with Earthwatch

Nearly a year ago, I spent a week at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland as apart of the HSBC Climate Partnership program administered by Earthwatch Institute

As many preservationists will tell you, the field is not limited to historic buildings (the “bricks and mortar”), but to preserving landscapes as well. Especially here in the Chesapeake Bay region, many of us find it impossible to separate our cultural identity from our environment. We thrive on our relationship with the Bay and its associated icons, such as the Great Blue Heron, the Blue Crab, sailing and other maritime activities, oysters and oystering, otters and dolphins (yes, dolphins!), turtles (like, of course, the Diamondback Terrapin), and lush riparian (or streamside)  forests. 

At the weeklong workshop, we not only learned theories about global climate change, but also participated hands-on in on-going sustainable forestry research taking place at SERC, including the impact of deforestation on the carbon balance in our region. We identified, classified, mapped, tagged, and measured hundreds of trees growing near the Rhode River. The goal of this particular project was to track how healthy the forests are in this area in light of the historical past use of the land for agricultural purposes. Some of the forest cover is new growth, after having been logged for farming purposes as late as the early twentieth century. Researchers will use this data to help North American forestry management deal with the ever increasing human impact on the landscape.

 On another occasion, I had the chance to canoe the Rhode River with the SERC staff during which I learned of human impact on the tiniest of flora and fauna in the Chesapeake Bay and the research at SERC charged with stemming the tide (so to speak) of negative change. 

Below are photos of my week-long adventure at SERC; it was the middle of autumn and quite extraordinary. – Aleithea

Me standing in front of a root system of an enormous fallen tree

Me standing in front of a root system of an enormous fallen tree

I climbed this 50 meter tower to view the landscape. Researchers use it to study the tree canopy.

I climbed this 50 meter tower to view the landscape. Researchers use it to study the tree canopy.

View of the Rhode River from the top of the tower

View of Edgewater from the top of the tower

 

With two feet back on the ground, a view of the tree canopy

With two feet back on the ground, a view of the tree canopy

Visiting Southern Maryland for War of 1812 Conference

Recently, Executive Director Carol Benson and Heritage Programs Coordinator Aleithea Williams visited Southern Maryland for the “Star-Spangled 200 Conference”, concerning the upcoming commemoration of the War of 1812. After spending the morning at the Calvert Marine Museum, and admiring the stingrays and otters, we spent a good part of the afternoon walking the beautiful grounds of Jefferson-Patterson Park and Museum in Saint Leonard, MD, or Jef-Pat (as the locals like to call it!). Near the end of the day, we visited Serenity Farms, which lives up to its name (check out the view in the photo below).

Looking out at St. Leonard Creek from Jef-Pat

Looking out at St. Leonard Creek from Jef-Pat

View of the landscape from the hill at Serenity Farms

View of the landscape from the top of the hill at Serenity Farms

Beautiful horses at Serenity Farms (the one on the right is pregnant!)

Beautiful horses at Serenity Farms (the one on the right is pregnant!)

Attending this conference helped us understand that Maryland had a significant role in the events and outcomes of the War of 1812. For more information about Maryland’s role, and the upcoming commemorative events all over the state, visit www.warof1812.org. Also, be sure to check out, and check often, Four Rivers Heritage Area calendar for 1812 events in the near and distant future.
-Aleithea

First Post

Four Rivers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a newbie at this but I learn as I go and I like to jump right in! I am amazed where social media are taking us these days!

Four Rivers is short for Four Rivers: The Heritage Area of Annapolis, London Town & South County, we are one of Maryland’s 11 certified heritage areas, and although we do a lot and work with a lot of organizations, we are just two staffers, myself (Carol Benson, Executive Director) and Aleithea (Heritage Programs Coordinator). The main thing we hear is that people haven’t heard about us, don’t know what we do, don’t know where we are, so we’re hoping that a blog, along with our active presence on Twitter, can help change all that! Over the next few months we’ll share success stories and upcoming opportunities, to try to get the word out there! Thanks for listening!  — Carol