Posts Tagged 'preservation'

Staff Blog on Stewardship: Carol Benson

I recently attended a very inspiring conference in Gettysburg, the 7th Annual Conference of the “Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area,” which had such an intense focus this year on sustainable growth and heritage tourism that I and a number of my fellow heritage area directors decided to set aside the time to attend. This turned out to be a great decision!

The best takeaway for me was about getting the Stewardship message across. More than one speaker told us that the biggest threat to preservation is not really the factors you expect (economics, developer greed, somebody wanting to make a fast buck), but it is lack of awareness. If made aware of the real meaning and value of our precious historic buildings, landmarks, and cultural landscapes, our unique built environment, the incredible wealth of our natural resources, our decision-makers want to do the right thing. It is our job to highlight what is important and valuable and irreplaceable about our heritage, to watch out for the threats, and to educate one another — the public, our students, our stakeholders, decision-makers and legislators — to help us all gain a heightened awareness of the roles we all must play in the Stewardship of our heritage. Thanks to the conference organizers for sharing this powerful Stewardship message, and the examples of precious resources lost and others saved : awareness will make the difference.

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.

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