By Patricia Samford, Director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory
A team of high school students from Huntingtown High School (HHS) who researched a mid-19th century privy pit as part of an archeology project with Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM) and discovered a wealth of Civil War-era household items, was recognized yesterday with a 2014 Maryland Preservation Award from the Maryland Historical Trust.
Archeologists had excavated the privy pit at the Baltimore Federal Reserve site in 1980, but had never studied the artifacts or prepared a report. Privy pits were dumping places for household garbage in the days before city-wide trash pick-up. The Federal Reserve site privy was filled with broken plates, spittoons, chamber pots, medicine bottles, seeds, animal bones and clothing. The students cataloged 2,500 artifacts, mended the broken pottery and glass, and conducted research on the objects, the site and Baltimore in the late 1800s.
HHS students, under the tutelage of JPPM staff and HHS social studies teacher Jeff Cunningham, shone on a light on life 150 years ago through a series of posters and an exhibit, called “One Man’s Privy Is Another’s Class Project,” installed for three months at the Calvert County Library in Prince Frederick. The exhibit now resides at a display case in the high school. They also prepared a research report, which was filed at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab) as part of the permanent records for the Baltimore Federal Reserve site.
MHT’s board of directors, which presented the awards during its 39thannual ceremony, commended Calvert County Public Schools for allowing the ambitious class projects in an era of shrinking education budgets. From the point of view of JPPM archeology staff, HHS students gained a unique understanding of research and collaboration as well as how to bring a complex project to completion. Through the project, the students gained an appreciation for preservation of Maryland history, setting them apart from most of their peers.
It was exciting to work with students on a project that provided them with real-world experience in a supportive setting, conducting the type of analysis normally done by professional archeologists. Even better was watching the students’ excitement about each new artifact and the information it held. We were thrilled that the Huntingtown High School Historic Investigations class was chosen to receive this honor and gratified to see them recognized.
For the full list of people and projects recognized at last night’s Preservation Awards ceremony, please visit http://www.mht.maryland.gov/awards.shtml.