Maryland’s Cultural Heritage Organizations and Institutions Grappling with COVID-19

In late March, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) and Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) launched an online survey, sent via MHT’s distribution lists, website and social media platforms. By the time the survey closed on April 13, we received 224 responses, with nearly 75% of participants representing non-profit organizations. The overall feedback was clear:  the COVID-19 public health crisis is having – and is expected to continue to have – a serious and detrimental effect on the financial and programmatic stability of cultural heritage organizations in Maryland. Although many museums and institutions have developed virtual tours and programs to keep people engaged and learning, these measures do not compensate for the loss of event revenue, on-site activities, and the experience of authentic history and public exchange available locally and around the state.


Figure 1 – excerpt of survey responses showing majority of participants represent nonprofits.

While MHAA and MHT staff are still compiling the full survey report, some key findings include:

  • Lost Income. More than 69% of respondents reported they have already lost income, and only 6.3% anticipate that they will make it through the crisis without revenue loss. Losses varied widely by organization, with an average estimate of $61,500 from the beginning of the COVID-19 closures through the survey submission.
  • Staffing Cuts. More than 12% of respondents have already reduced staff, and an additional 12.9% have reduced salaries or payroll. Approximately half of respondents indicated that temporary or permanent staff reductions were likely.
  • Long Recovery Time. The majority of respondents (57.6%) predicted that recovery of their income streams to pre-COVID levels would take six months or more after the national and state emergency declarations concluded, with 29.5% predicting it would take at least a year.

Figure 2 – excerpt of survey responses showing the majority of participants anticipate a recovery time of six months or more following the conclusion of the state of emergency.

In response to this dire situation, MHAA automatically extended all grant reporting deadlines by 90 days and took the unprecedented step of allowing current MHAA grant recipients to repurpose project funding for emergency and operating expenses. Other grant programs at MHT, including the Historic Preservation Grant Program and the Certified Local Government Program, worked with grantees to extend existing deadlines and change grant scopes to better accommodate the COVID-19 situation and quickly offer support. The Maryland Heritage Areas Program also launched and concluded its first round of COVID-19 Emergency Operating Grant applications, in which nonprofit heritage tourism organizations within certified heritage areas were eligible to apply for grants of up to $20,000. MHAA received 114 applications requesting over $1.8 million by the May 1 deadline, and a committee of MHAA members are currently reviewing the applications as a batch with the goal of announcing award decisions in mid-May. Subsequent grant rounds will be subject to funding availability and decisions by MHAA.

MHAA and MHT will continue to monitor this situation as it progresses and identify ways to support our constituents. Over time, this may also include training and workshops to help improve institutional resilience overall, as well as disaster and emergency preparedness. We welcome your feedback and ideas as we continue this conversation together.

Welcome Marieka Arksey to Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum!

The Maryland Historical Trust is pleased to welcome Marieka Arksey as the new Assistant Director of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM).  As chief of operations, Marieka will manage JPPM’s capital programs, develop projects that ensure optimal use of JPPM buildings and grounds, participate in the long-term goal setting and strategic planning for the park as a whole, and assist with the development of onsite exhibits, educational programming, and offsite outreach initiatives.

Arksey_PicLinkedInMarieka’s love of historic and archaeological sites stems from an early introduction to ancient history through her father’s storytelling of Viking sagas, many family visits to museums and heritage parks, and a trip to Greece at the age of 3 where her most repeated phrase was “More broken buildings!” Marieka holds a B.Sc. in Archaeological Science from the University of Toronto, an M.A. in Arts, Histories, and Cultures from the University of Manchester, and a Ph.D. in World Cultures from the University of California, Merced.  She has conducted archaeological fieldwork in South Africa, Haiti, Belize, and the United States.  Her interest in bringing museum collections to a wider audience led her to work at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and the British Museum in London, as well as with numerous small museums in California where she focused on digitization, database development, and developing linked open data repositories.


Excavating at the Marquette Mammoth Site outside of Cody, Wyoming

Originally from Ottawa, Canada, Marieka has long been familiar with the other side of American history in the 1800s!  She is excited to be now be immersed in this area of the United States and looks forward to continuing to promote community engagement in historic preservation, while developing new means of engaging a wider audience of researchers, educators, and the public at JPPM.


Reflections on Maryland Day

By Matt McKnight, Chief Archaeologist

Maryland Day marks the March 25th, 1634 landing of the Ark and the Dove on St. Clement’s Island in the Potomac River. Though the English colonists aboard these vessels made previous landings in the English Caribbean and in Virginia, their arrival at St. Clement’s meant that they had just entered the Province of Maryland, a territory of some 12 million acres granted to Lord Baltimore by Royal Charter from King Charles I. A few days later, the English colonists would sail north to negotiate with the Piscataway Tayac and obtain land for the establishment of their capital at St. Mary’s City. March 25th, 1634 and the events of the following days would be momentous not only for the Maryland colonists, but for other English already settled in the territory, Native Americans, African-Americans that would be forcibly transported into the colony, and rival European powers.

Here at MHT, we take pride in our efforts to support colonial archaeology and the study of Maryland’s colonial history. On this Maryland Day, we thought we would highlight several recent projects of interest focused on Maryland’s colonial period.

Dr. Tim Horsley conducts GPR survey in search of the 1634 Fort at St. Marys

Dr. Tim Horsley conducts ground-penetrating radar survey in search of the 1634 fort at St. Mary’s City.

Research Support through the Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Program. In FY2018 and FY2019, MHT supported critical research into Maryland’s colonial past. In FY18, MHT provided $16,000 in funds to Historic St. Mary’s City to conduct a geophysical survey of two possible locations for the fort built by the first Maryland colonists in 1634. That study identified numerous anomalies of interest at one of the sites, to be ground-truthed using traditional archaeological methods. In FY19, $30,000 in funds were distributed to Historic Sotterley, a late 17th and 18th century colonial plantation in St. Mary’s County to conduct an expanded survey of nearly 50 newly acquired acres that were once a part of the 2,000 acre plantation. Preliminary results suggest that new colonial-era and Native American sites have been identified.

Cover - The Archaeology of Colonial Maryland

Engagement through MHT Press. In 2019, MHT Press published The Archaeology of Colonial Maryland: Five Essays by Scholars of the Early Province. This heavily-illustrated volume provides the perspectives of five professional archeologists, exploring Maryland’s colonial past from slightly different vantage points. It is written with the general public in mind and is available in paperback and hard bound from MHT Press at

Excavation underway at the 17th Century Calverton Site

Excavation underway at the 17th century Calverton site

Public Archaeology Opportunities. In 2017 and 2018, the Annual Field Session in Maryland Archaeology, a joint “citizen science” project of the MHT Office of Archaeology and the Archeological Society of Maryland was held at the Calverton site along Battle Creek. Calverton was the 17th century seat of Calvert County government and archaeological work there was able to identify intact remnants of the colonial town. Artifacts from the 2017 and 2018 excavations became a part of the collections at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. You can learn more about the site and the collections by visiting Archaeological research at Calverton has been supported through the Certified Local Government Program and the Maryland Heritage Areas Program.

Remote sensing survey at the late 18th century site of Barwicks Ordinary

Remote sensing survey at the late 18th century site of Barwicks Ordinary

Remote Sensing Research by the MHT Office of Archaeology. In recent years the MHT Office of Archaeology has conducted remote sensing projects at a number of colonial sites, as well as Native American sites with documentary or prior archaeological evidence suggestive of Native-English interactions. Among these are Barwick’s Ordinary (Caroline County), the Raven Site (Howard County), Billingsley (Prince George’s County), and Biggs Ford (Frederick County). This vital research will help the state, county partners, and dedicated members of the public to better manage these important historic resources.

Join the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions for Our 40th Anniversary Celebration at the 2019 Annual Symposium on May 18! (Guest Blog)

By Leslie Gottert, Executive Director, MAHDC

This year Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions (MAHDC) is turning forty and it will kick off the celebration of this milestone at its 2019 Annual Symposium on Saturday, May 18, at the beautiful Conference Center of the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ (ERUCC) in downtown Frederick.


The theme of this year’s symposium is Looking Back, Looking Forward: Considering Maryland’s Historic District Legacy and Future. The morning session will provide an opportunity for attendees to explore the history of their districts through a series of case studies. A break-out session will encourage an exchange of experience about the reinterpretation of district history through the inclusion of new stories. In the afternoon session, attendees will consider the challenge of a changing climate and its impact on Maryland’s historic resources and landscapes with keynote speaker Lisa Craig, nationally recognized preservationist and expert on climate change. A panel discussion, followed by a Q&A, will allow attendees to share experiences from their districts and begin to formulate a vision to inform local strategies. You can learn more about the program or register online here .

outline drawing of church

Historical Drawing of the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ (used with permission of ERUCC)

Over the past four decades, MAHDC has facilitated an exchange of information among the state’s Historic District Commissions and provided training for commissioners and staff in topics such as design review, law and legal procedures, and ethics that support the effective work of the commissions.  Between the two sessions, after lunch, the Board of Directors will launch the MAHDC fortieth anniversary celebration in the historic ERUCC sanctuary, when it will recognize the support of the Maryland Historical Trust and its Director Elizabeth Hughes,  MAHDC co-founders G. Bernard “Bernie” Callan and Cherilyn Widell, the former Mayor of Frederick, State Senator Ronald Young, and three of the first board members.

2018 Annual Symposium Session

2018 MAHDC Annual Symposium at the University of Maryland, College Park

Since 2016, the MAHDC Annual Symposium has been a lively encounter of over fifty district commissioners, Certified Local Government staff and other preservation professionals and supporters, who gather to learn from experts in the field, ask questions, and exchange lessons learned from their experiences in the field. MAHDC is grateful for the generous support for this event of the Maryland Historical Trust and SuperGreen Solutions/Indowindow, the Symposium’s Principal Sponsor. We look forward to seeing you in Frederick on May 18th and welcoming you to the Symposium! 

What’s “Magical” About Maryland Archeology?

By Sara Rivers Cofield, Curator of Federal Collections, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum

When a committee of archeologists selected “The Magic and Mystery of Maryland Archeology” as the theme for the 2019 Maryland Archeology Month, they were not thinking about Harry Potter or pulling a rabbit out of a top hat. “Magic” in anthropological terms, is anything people do to try to influence the supernatural. That includes personified supernatural forces like gods, ghosts, and ancestral spirits, and impersonal supernatural forces like luck. Usually when people try to influence the supernatural there is a clear end in mind and a ritualized procedure to follow. When you pick a penny up and say, “find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck,” an anthropologist would classify that as a “magic” ritual.

18CV91 - 4245, Feature 4 NE quad, Alex and Annette excavating2

Archeologists Annette Cook and Alex Glass carefully excavate one quadrant of the kitchen cellar at Smith’s St. Leonard.

Archeology is a sub-discipline of anthropology in the U.S., so we use the anthropological definition of magic for select artifacts that were once considered objects of power. There is a joke of sorts in archeology that any artifact of unknown purpose must be “ritual,” which is really code for “I have no other explanation.” That joke was born out of legitimate criticism, but it has scared some people away from considering ritual and magic in archeology. The burden of proof that something is “magic” is very high. However, it is a disservice to our understanding of past belief systems if we fail to consider possible ritual and magic uses of artifacts, especially if the context calls for it.

18CV91 - 4245C F.4 horseshoe

The Smith’s St. Leonard horseshoe was found in the fill of a kitchen cellar that contained debris from a remodeling episode associated with the brick hearth.

A perfect example is a well-worn horseshoe from Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum’s public archeology site, the Smith’s St. Leonard plantation, which was occupied ca. 1711-1754. The obvious default interpretation of a horseshoe is that it was for shoeing a horse, especially if the horseshoe is worn enough to show it was used. However, historical records indicate that it was rare to shoe horses in Maryland prior to the 1750s because the soft clay soils did not require it. Over 200 units have been excavated at the site, resulting in over 450 boxes of artifacts from the main house, a kitchen, a laundry, at least three slave quarter buildings, a store house, and a stable. Only one horseshoe was found, and it was not near the stable, but in a kitchen cellar that was filled with debris from a hearth remodeling episode.

Horseshoes have a long history as objects placed on thresholds, near hearths, or in ritual concealments to ward off evil or bring good luck. Furthermore, some of these beliefs hold that found horseshoes, such as those thrown from a hoof along a roadway, were the ones with power. For example, witches could not pass through a threshold guarded by an old horseshoe until they had traveled all the roads the horse had traveled, and by then it would be daylight. Thus, history and context suggest that the Smith’s St. Leonard horseshoe was a magical object that once protected the hearth.

2012.001.3AT Horseshoe

The Smith’s St. Leonard horseshoe after conservation treatment.

It is not always possible to determine whether an everyday object was put to a magical purpose, and that is where the “mystery” of the “Magic and Mystery” theme comes in. There are many finds that might be evidence of magic, but there is no way to know with certainty. It is still worthwhile to consider the possibility though because it calls for an understanding of how the people who used these artifacts viewed the world. Ultimately, having that knowledge of how people in the past thought and behaved is what archeology is all about.

Interested in participating in excavations at Smith’s St. Leonard? The 2019 Public Archaeology program runs from May 7 to June 29. For more information visit

Suffrage Leader Augusta Chissell to Be Inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame

By Kacy Rohn, Planner, City of College Park and Heather Barrett, Administrator of Research and Survey, Maryland Historical Trust

On March 21st at the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis, Augusta T. Chissell will be inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, joining seven other notable women honored for their achievements and contributions to the State.

Maryland women suffragists played an important role in the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. State suffrage leaders, including Augusta T. Chissell, developed a robust network of grassroots organizations across Maryland, greatly shaping the fight for women’s rights. While the work of these activists has largely been forgotten, this is particularly true for African American suffragists, who were excluded from prominent suffrage organizations and omitted from newspaper coverage and organizational records. Early twentieth-century African American suffragists’ work was particularly important at a time when Jim Crow laws sought to undermine hard-won civil rights.

Augusta T. Chissell

Augusta Chissell. Photo courtesy of Mark Young

Augusta Chissell was an important African American leader of the women’s suffrage movement in Baltimore City in the early twentieth century. Chissell had deep roots in Baltimore’s women’s clubs, which fostered leadership skills as they promoted causes including education, healthcare, and prohibition. She was an officer in Baltimore’s Progressive Women’s Suffrage Club and held a leadership position in the prominent Women’s Cooperative Civic League. Chissell, her neighbor Margaret Gregory Hawkins, and activist Estelle Young were part of a black middle class who lived and worked in neighborhoods now part of the Old West Baltimore Historic District. The close proximity of these organizations’ members, driven by residential segregation, made it convenient for them to hold meetings in their homes, and they often gathered at Chissell’s home on Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore.

Augusta Chissell Home

Augusta T. Chissell’s home at 1534 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore

In the early twentieth century, the women’s suffrage movement began to secure the support of important state and national organizations. In 1914, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC) endorsed women’s suffrage, and local clubs and associations moved quickly to draw further public support by holding mass meetings. The first public meeting of the Women’s Suffrage Club drew a large and enthusiastic crowd to Grace Presbyterian Church in December 1915, and in 1916, the NACWC brought their biennial national convention to Baltimore, where the suffrage movement was a major topic of discussion.


Dr. Robert G. and Augusta T. Chissell with great nephew, Mark Young (ca. 1960)

Following passage of the 19th Amendment, Chissell authored “A Primer for Women Voters,” a recurring column in the Baltimore Afro-American that offered guidance to new African American women voters. She organized training sessions for women at the neighborhood Colored Young Women’s Christian Association (CYWCA) after women got the vote, and later served as the Chair of the Women’s Cooperative Civic League and as Vice President of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP. The Women’s Club used the CYWCA to hold weekly ‘Citizenship Meetings’ for new women voters and ongoing lectures on voting and civic responsibility.

Augusta T. Chissell’s legacy endures in her former home at 1534 Druid Hill Avenue, where she lived during her decades of civic activism, and in the former CYWCA building at 1200 Druid Hill Avenue, where the Women’s Suffrage Club began hosting public meetings in 1915. As the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment approaches, Marylanders should honor and celebrate strong women like Augusta Chissell, whose decades of civic activism laid the groundwork for so many of us.

Tomorrow’s event is sold out, but the Maryland Historical Trust will post photos of the induction ceremony on social media. To explore the story of women’s suffrage in Maryland, visit MHT’s storymap “Maryland Women’s Fight for the Vote.”