Posts Tagged 'museum'

A Story Quilt and a Spirited Ceremony

Apparently it was a well-kept surprise to Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither that she, along with her extraordinary documentary story quilt, were the honorees at a spirited dedication ceremony this past Wednesday. The artist received various accolades, too many to enumerate, celebrating her Black Watermen of the Chesapeake quilt. Imagine being asked to show up for a “small” dedication ceremony to find a hundred friends, family, local students, community members, and other supporters there to tell you how much of an impact you have had on their lives. Music and poetry framed the ceremony, including a rendition of Ave Maria by Banneker-Douglass Museum’s own Gen Kaplan, winter and water-themed selections by Bates Middle School choir, and a capella spirituals. Oh yes, there were tears.

 Let me back up a little; when I say her quilt, what I mean is her vision, her expertise, and her talent. But Dr. Gaither did something remarkable: She shared all this with the community and allowed anyone who wished to add their story, their photos, and their stitches to the quilt. She is the first to say that this was a community project. This particular documentary story quilt, as there are quite a few more, tells the stories of African American men and women who spent their lives working the water of the Chesapeake: Their struggles, their triumphs, their families, their LOVE of the Bay. As Jeff Holland, Director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum said, “this is our history,” no matter who you are. If you live by the Bay, you will be touched by these stories.

If you haven’t seen the quilt yet, well, you have to wait until March when it returns to its home state – this piece is traveling! Its first stop is in Hartford, Connecticut then back to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

Reflecting on this past Wednesday, though, I can say what a great way to start the day! If you weren’t able to attend the dedication ceremony, check out some of my photos below. Then get in the car, and go to Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center in Annapolis to check out some of her other pieces while they’re still on exhibit!

— Aleithea W.

The Bates Middle School choir sings for the audience

Karen Rowe and Olivia Gray from the organization Quilt: Art to Mend the World (from my hometown, Riverale, MD!) lead the audience in a spiritual

Dr. Gaither stands in front of (only a small section!) of the Quilt

Mr. Ted Mack prepares to present Dr. Gaither with an accolade with the entire quilt in the background

In Memoriam, Roberta Cassard

The sign at the Galesville Heritage Museum
The sign at the Galesville Heritage Museum following Roberta’s passing

Roberta Cassard, who passed away unexpectedly on September 30 after a brief illness, was a lovely person who will be greatly missed.

Back in 2007, Four Rivers honored Roberta, together with another Galesville Heritage Society founder, Jack Smith, with our highest honor, our Heritage Award. The notes from that night cite their tireless efforts to preserve, interpret and share the heritage of Galesville. “The Galesville Heritage Museum stands as testimony to their vision and their determination to secure a place in which to house the artifacts, manuscripts and oral history collection that helps document and tell the rich and diverse history of Galesville to residents and to visitors. Roberta Cassard’s tireless dedication to the community is also evident in the moving Veterans Day program that she coordinates for local veterans every year. Both have served as Presidents of the Galesville Heritage Society, and as board and committee members.” Soon after, she was awarded a Community Service award by Leadership Anne Arundel.

A tribute to Roberta reads in part: “A longtime resident of Galesville, Roberta became a founding member and first president of the Galesville Heritage Society. She was instrumental in calling the first organizational meeting at the Galesville Memorial Hall on September 11, 1991. Being one not to dally, the morning after the meeting Roberta began a video series of the waterfront, historic houses, businesses, and, especially, taped interviews with local longtime residents such as watermen, farmers, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs.

“She initiated the museum collection with donations of her personal historical artifacts. Not to be dismayed by the lack of a display area, she started out storing the collection in the trunk of her car. As the collection grew,  it was moved to a shed behind the TopSide restaurant, then to the attic of Memorial Hall, then to the back room of the West River Market. Eventually Roberta served on a site selection committee to find a permanent home for the burgeoning collection. In the process, the house of a beloved local teacher was purchased with a grant that Roberta helped obtain.”

Citations for Roberta call her the “heart and soul of Galesville,” and that she truly was, for many of us who were privileged to know her. She seemed to be an unstoppable force, always just a phone call away, devoted to the museum and determined not only to keep it going, but to constantly improving it; and it is hard to think that she will no longer be waiting just inside the door for our knock as we bring another group for a visit. Our last visit with her was August 27th and was blogged by Aleithea (see “A Day in Anne Arundel County,” below), and there she is in one of our photos, as gracious and welcoming as ever. Upon hearing of her passing, Donna Hole, former Chair of the heritage area’s Coordinating Council, said, “Indeed, sad news.  Roberta was with us from the very beginning as we got the Heritage Area going.  A lovely, gentle woman. I will miss her.”

So will we all! Roberta lives on, I know, in the great work of her life, the Galesville Heritage Museum. If you’d like to visit this unique local museum and take part in their upcoming programs, check their website, http://www.galesvilleheritagesociety.org/, for more information.

–Carol Benson


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