A Summer Exploring Maryland’s History by Land and Sea

A Summer Exploring Maryland’s History by Land and Sea

By Stephanie Soder, 2019 Summer Intern in Maryland Archeology

Having recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Maritime Studies (Archeology), I was excited when I was chosen as the Maryland Historical Trust’s summer intern. I grew up just over the Mason-Dixon border in Pennsylvania and spent about half of my life in Maryland, so I was happy to be back in the state I considered “home”. The MHT Archeology staff wasted no time in throwing me into the chaos of gearing up for the annual Tyler Bastian Field Session that was taking place at Billingsley House in Prince George’s County.

The Author examining a prehistoric pit feature exposed during the 2019 Field Session
(Drone imagery courtesy of Ryan Craun, M-NCPPC).

Though the Billingsley House dates to the 18th century, this 11-day field session focused on finding two 17th-century Native American villages. I was charged with keeping the field lab running smoothly and the site forms organized. Water buckets and toothbrushes came out every day for artifact washing, allowing volunteers to take a break from digging in the heat. Every tenth bucket coming from each unit was water screened through a ⅛” mesh, hoping to reveal small trade beads (and creating quite the mess). By the end of the session, 12 units had been opened, resulting in artifacts ranging from pre-colonial lithics and ceramics to nails, faunal remains, and fire-cracked rock. Thanks to the hard efforts of the lab volunteers, almost all of the artifacts were washed and weighed by the end of the last day.

The remaining time of my internship was split between a variety of projects. I was able to work on projects that met my interests, and though I love to be out in the field, I challenged myself by taking on tasks that I was not as familiar with: Section 106 review and compliance, artifact identification, and remote sensing.

A Late Archaic projectile point recovered at Billingsley (Photo by the author).

Compliance archeology focuses on ensuring that federal and state funded projects limit impacts to the historical integrity of sites around Maryland. Dixie Henry and Beth Cole shared their expectations for compliance reports and gave me federal and state standards for archeology and architectural studies to read. They then allowed to me to review some compliance reports and tag along on a consultation meeting with the National Park Service to mitigate impacts to historic sites while building their new C & O Canal Headquarters. The time I spent learning about compliance has reinforced my appreciation for the work that goes into protecting our historical resources.

My graduate research focused largely on Pacific Islander culture and modern conflict, so getting familiar with artifacts found throughout Maryland was a necessity. I spent much of the second half of my internship in the lab cleaning, identifying, and photographing artifacts from previously completed fieldwork in Janes Island State Park (Somerset County). I then began working on site forms and compiled a report that highlighted research on each type of artifact find. There’s no better way to learn how to complete a task than getting to do it first-hand, and I feel that my time working with the artifacts helped familiarize me with examples found around Maryland and the resources available for identification.

Most of my previous work involved excavation or evaluation with very little training in remote sensing. Under the tutelage of Matt McKnight and Charlie Hall, I learned how to run a magnetic susceptibility meter and a fluxgate gradiometer. Putting what I had learned to the test, we set out for a new site that may be associated with an ordinary dating from the origins of Caroline County. I assisted with using the gradiometer and practiced with the magnetic susceptibility meter. The collected data will help with future work on the site by the Caroline County Historical Society. Out on Janes Island, Troy Nowak put me to work completing a side-scan sonar and bathymetric survey in Maryland waters. With a steady hand and concentration, I learned to follow transect lines while driving a boat in order to collect data consistently. The rest of the week was spent surveying the shoreline and tracking how it has changed over time in order to evaluate potential impacts on historical sites.

The author collecting marine remote sensing data off of Janes Island (Photo by Troy Nowak).

My summer at MHT came to an end far too quickly, but it has been an extremely rewarding experience. It has helped prepare me for a career in Maryland, and I’d like to thank the entire staff at MHT for their guidance, patience, and for providing me this amazing opportunity.

A Summer Spent at the Maryland Historical Trust

By Noah Jaques, Intern

As a rising senior majoring in History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, I have spent the past two months interning at the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) in the Office of Research, Survey and Registration through the Governor’s Summer Internship Program. With the guidance of my mentor Nancy Kurtz, the office’s Marker and Monument Programs Administrator, I worked on exciting tasks both in the office and out in the field.

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The author practicing cleaning techniques in the field

While in the office, I researched and compiled the information necessary to make a robust virtual tour of monuments and markers related to African-American history that will soon be available on MHT’s website. I learned how to access archive materials to pair with my online research, so that I could paint the fullest possible picture of the historic people and sites that I covered in my virtual tour. The biggest challenge I encountered in making the virtual tour was ensuring that the information was presented in a way that would be appreciated by the public. I also learned the importance of using pictures to grab the public’s attention and utilized many of MHT’s pictures along with pictures from the web to create a satisfying final product.

In the office I also completed the less glamorous, but still fulfilling, work of uploading monument treatment reports to a database so that they are now accessible by MHT staff. I worked on uploading scanned postcards of historic sites so that they can be accessed digitally as well. Finally, in my spare time I began to put together a storymap of places in Maryland related to World War I.

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Assisting with monuments maintenance

In addition to my work in the office, I treated war monuments out in the field. I washed a Spirit of the Doughboy monument in Crisfield and waxed the Talbot Boys war memorial in Easton. These were valuable experiences because I learned about the expertise that is required by conservators to maintain monuments, exposing me to a new field of work. I also had the opportunity to tour monuments and other historical sites, including a WWI exhibit in the Maryland Museum of Military History at the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore, the WWI Hammann-Costin monument nearby, and WWI and Revolutionary War monuments in Annapolis. I found the tour opportunities helpful and satisfying in the process of constructing my WWI storymap, and the information provided by my mentor was intellectually invigorating.

My time spent at the Maryland Historical Trust was a highly rewarding experience because I have learned about how history can be related to the public in the most meaningful ways. I have also made lasting professional connections, including not just those in my office but those I have interacted with in the process of completing my work. My future is brighter because of this experience.

Artifacts, Oyster Shells and Shipwrecks: My Internship with the Maryland Historical Trust

By Ryan Miranda, 2017 Summer Intern in Maryland Archeology

As the summer archeology intern with the Maryland Historical Trust, I was excited to make the most of this great opportunity. My first day included introductions to the archeology team of Dennis Curry, Matt McKnight, Charlie Hall and the rest of the staff, after which I began to help with setting up the equipment for the annual Tyler Bastian Field Session in Maryland Archeology, held this year at the 17th century Calverton site in Calvert County.

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Pipestems from Calverton

During the field session, I experienced all parts of an archeological excavation. I laid out several units, broke ground, removed turf, excavated and sifted through the loose soil to find artifacts. My main role during the field session though was lab manager and paperwork supervisor. While I had experience in the excavation side of field work, I had little experience in the lab work side. With the help of the Kirsti Uunila, an archeologist and planner with the Calvert County government, the experience exposed me more to how to properly clean, count and organize artifacts. I learned the vital role of organizing paperwork in the field and keeping accurate records up-to-date. Archeology is a destructive science. Without proper documentation and organization, artifacts and paperwork with the provenience details and description of finds could be lost. Important details from the past would remain uncovered.

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Measuring oyster shells

The next part of my internship was co-authoring a field report with Charlie Hall. This report described work at a Late Woodland Native American site that was excavated in 2009—a site which contained a shell midden despite being a few miles upstream from where oysters are usually found. My portion of the report focuses on the cultural settings of the site and the oyster analysis. The cultural settings section examines the general prehistory of the area, from the Paleoindian era to the Late Woodland. It included explanations of settlement patterns, subsistence, technology and how they all evolved through time. The oyster analysis section entailed researching how to properly measure oysters and interpret the findings. I then continued the work of a previous intern to measure the shells to help determine the possible environment that each was grown in. This part of the internship familiarized me with the research side that is crucial to archeology. I found it fun to discover new information about objects and times with which I was not familiar. Simultaneous to the oyster shell project, I was also cleaning artifacts from the spring field session, which afforded me the opportunity to handle some amazing objects.

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The author conducting maritime survey. Photo credit Troy Nowak.

 

The final part of my internship was spent working with the Maryland Maritime Archeology Program. I worked with one of the State’s underwater archeologists, Troy Nowak, and was able to go out into the field (or should I say, out on to the water) to help document several shipwrecks along the western shore of Maryland. I helped plan and execute side scan sonar and magnetometer surveys which allowed us to obtain clear images of what was beneath the waves. This was an incredible opportunity to get hands-on training with the tools of a maritime archeologist and learn more about Maryland’s maritime history.

Though my time here at the Maryland Historical Trust was short, I have valued the experience and the lessons I have learned here. I would like to thank the staff for welcoming me into the community and making this internship an amazing experience.

Lithics, Ceramics and Fauna, Oh My! – An Internship Cataloging Adventure

By Grace Davenport, Maryland Historical Trust Intern

My name is Grace. I am an intern with the Maryland Historical Trust in Crownsville, MD. I have only ever worked in an archeology lab once before. All I did was put some dirty artifacts in some water, gently brush them with an old toothbrush and listen to other groups in the class become excited that they had a hair comb in their collection of artifacts. Meanwhile, when I looked at my bag it just looked like a clump of rust (which it was). That was a historic site, and we never went into much detail with it. Working in the Archeology Lab with the Maryland Historical Trust has been an entirely different experience. Continue reading

A Summer with the Maryland Historical Trust – by Andrew Chase

The Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) enjoys hosting interns during the summer months. This year, we asked our interns to share their experiences with all of you! If you enjoy these blogs, please consider applying for an internship with MHT in 2017. 

Andrew Chase Visiting Crimea

The author on a site visit to Crimea, Baltimore City

I am a rising senior at Severna Park High School, and ever since I was young, I have had a profoundly great interest in history. I enjoy reading all sorts of histories, from political to economic to art and architecture. This summer, I spent two months completing an internship with the Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland’s State Historic Preservation Office. During my internship, I was able to get a closer look at Maryland’s history and see how we preserve our past. Continue reading