Angling for Archeology

By Troy Nowak, Assistant State Underwater Archeologist, Maryland Historical Trust

“Catch anything?” is positively the most common question we are asked on the water.

“Perhaps?” is usually the correct answer, but not an answer anyone would expect or understand without explanation. There is never time to explain when piloting a skiff with a cable attached to a towfish astern, and crabpots, pilings, or other obstructions dead ahead. The answer is usually a simple “No,” hopefully not accompanied by a scramble to avoid collision.

Contrary to popular belief, we are never fishing and rarely searching for any particular archeological site or shipwreck. As part of the Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland’s State Historic Preservation Office, most of our time on the water is related to routine site inspections of areas where construction is planned, or surveys of areas where development is expected or erosion is accelerating.

John Fiveash and Brent ChippendaleMay 2017 Field Session (1)

John Fiveash and Brent Chippendale, volunteering with the Maryland Maritime Archeology Program as part of the 2017 Annual Field Session in Maryland Archeology.

Each year roughly 700 projects receiving state or federal licenses, permits, or funding find their way to our desks  for review in compliance with state and federal historic preservation laws. All involve activities with potential to impact submerged archeological historic properties and reviews of these projects can take from ten minutes to years of coordination with government agencies and project sponsors. Very few, about ten per year, require site inspections; even less result in recommendations to government agencies for archeological studies prior to construction or other ground disturbance. This process is the frontline against loss of submerged archeological sites and/or the information they can provide to development.

Most site inspections and surveys involve reconnaissance of a discrete area using a side scan sonar, a marine magnetometer, and an echo sounder. Side scan sonar allows us to record detailed images of submerged lands and objects regardless of water clarity and the marine magnetometer helps us find submerged and buried shipwrecks, wharves, or other structures or objects which cause localized distortions in the earth’s magnetic field. The echo sounder is largely used to make sure we don’t run the instruments or the skiff aground, but we can also use the data it collects to produce bathymetric maps which can allow comparisons between current bottom topography and historic charts and maps.

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This April, Maryland Archeology Month celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Maryland Maritime Archeology Program.

We rarely know if we “caught” anything significant without further work – typically including data processing and review, library and archival research, more survey, and occasionally diving.

Discovery of new sites not only happens during formal site inspections and surveys, but also, and quite often, during the trip home. We typically stow the magnetometer before we depart the area we are formally investigating. It is towed nearly 70 feet astern during operation creating a complication and potential hazard while cruising among other vessels. We often leave the sonar in the water, as it is usually either pole mounted or towed very close alongside, and adjust its range to cover a large area. Now painting in broad strokes, the sonar produces coarse-grained images unsuitable for a typical archeological survey, but good enough to detect large objects protruding from or sitting on the bottom.

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Wooden shipwreck recorded during the  final site visit of 2017.

The return trip usually is planned in advance to pass or quickly inspect areas where the remains of old boats and ships may be hiding, such as inlets where they were often discarded, and shoals where they often ran aground. This is usually the most relaxing and exciting part of the day. The work is done and we can use our knowledge, skill, and a bit of luck to “catch a big one.”

We are often fortunate enough to share the excitement of discovery with volunteers who assist at the helm or scrutinize incoming data for any indication of potential targets. When we get a “bite” we normally turn around and readjust the sonar to capture clear images such as the wooden shipwreck recorded by volunteer Bill Utley and me after the Maryland Maritime Archeology Program’s final site visit of 2017 (see shipwreck photo above). We look forward to returning to the site to learn more about its identity and significance and to more site visits, surveys, and discoveries like this one in 2018.

This post was adapted from Charting the Past:  30 Years of Exploring Maryland’s Submerged History, a booklet written in celebration of Maryland Archeology Month – April 2018.

The Maryland Maritime Archeology Program was established in 1988 in response to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987, which encourages states to study, protect, preserve, and manage shipwrecks embedded in or on state-controlled submerged lands, and in recognition of the importance of Maryland’s varied submerged cultural resources. The program inventories and manages these resources in collaboration with non-profit organizations and government agencies and shares information with the public through its education and outreach activities.

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A Story Map of Women’s Suffrage in Maryland

By Kacy Rohn, Graduate Assistant Intern

As a graduate student in the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, I had the opportunity to spend over a year interning with the Maryland Historical Trust and to work on a personally significant project – documenting the Maryland women’s suffrage movement.

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Image from the Baltimore Sun article “Maryland Is Invaded,” which detailed the Elkton, Maryland stop on the 1913 suffragists’ march from New York to Washington, DC. 

Generously funded by the Maryland Historical Trust’s Board of Trustees, this special project allowed me to develop a history of the statewide women’s suffrage movement and to identify significant suffrage sites, a timely endeavor as we approach the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. Before this research, we had little idea that that Maryland’s suffragists (a term they preferred to the derogatory “suffragette”) had been so active or that they had worked in dozens of hitherto forgotten places around the state. In previous blog posts (which can be found here and here), I highlighted two of these stories and two historic sites with previously overlooked connections to the movement.

Now, I’m excited to share one of my final projects: a story map that presents a chronological overview of the important places and milestones of the Maryland suffrage movement. This story ranges from the earliest beginnings of the movement to the final passage of the 19th Amendment, showcasing Maryland women’s dedication to this long fight.

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The women’s suffrage story map can be found on the Maryland Historical Trust website.

Though my internship has almost ended, I’m happy to see that this important project will continue. My research will be used by Maryland Historical Trust staff to nominate significant women’s suffrage sites to the National Register of Historic Places and will support other statewide efforts to preserve these sites and tell their stories.

Maryland Historical Trust Director Honored with Award

On May 11, 2017, at the College Park Aviation Museum, Preservation Maryland – the statewide non-profit organization dedicated to historic preservation– awarded Maryland Historical Trust director Elizabeth Hughes its Special Recognition award. This award is reserved for projects or individuals who have exhibited exceptional merit in the field of preservation.

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Elizabeth Hughes with Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nick Redding

Governor Larry Hogan appointed Elizabeth as Maryland’s State Historic Preservation Officer and confirmed her appointment by the Board of Trustees as the MHT director in 2015. Prior to her appointment, she had served as the agency’s deputy director. As Preservation Maryland executive director Nick Redding said in his remarks:

“She has shepherded the organization into a new era for preservation – finding ways to help preserve diverse places and stories while also maintaining an agency with the responsibility and oversight of a critical tax credit program and millions of dollars in annual funding. For these reasons alone, she deserves our recognition, but in addition to her work here in Maryland, Elizabeth has quietly and humbly served as the President of the National Council of State Historic Preservation Officers. During her tenure as President of this organization, she proudly represented the Old Line State and helped see that the federal historic preservation fund was re-authorized… If not re-authorized, this program, like many others would currently be on the chopping block. But, thanks to Elizabeth’s leadership, testimony and strategy, the Fund is secure and will provide millions of dollars in support to preservationists around the nation.”

Many thanks to Preservation Maryland for recognizing Elizabeth’s achievements and congratulations to Elizabeth on her award!

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Director Elizabeth Hughes with Deputy Director Anne Raines

 

Welcome Our New Deputy Director!

The Maryland Historical Trust is pleased to announce that Anne Raines will be our new Deputy Director.  Anne is no stranger to our partners and constituents, since she has served as our Capital Grants and Loans Administrator since 2010.  Her duties have taken her around the state for workshops, site visits, and outreach for the African American Heritage Preservation Program, the MHT Capital Grant and Loan Programs, and the National Park Service Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Grants.

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Anne Raines in Hamburg

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My Summer in Maryland Archeology

By Justin Warrenfeltz

As the 2016 Summer Archeology Intern with the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), I have worked on a wide variety of projects, each more interesting than the last. In June, I assisted with the planning and implementation of the Archeological Society of Maryland annual Tyler Bastian Field Session in Maryland Archeology. As a former archeological crew chief, this was a perfect opportunity for me to contribute substantially to MHT’s work at the River Farm site. Under the guidance of archeologists with the Lost Towns Project, I assisted with excavation and site management.

Justin Janes Island

The author at Janes Island State Park in Crisfield

After the Field Session, State Terrestrial Archeologist Dr. Charles Hall asked me to plan and implement a research method for oyster shell analysis of artifacts recovered from the Willin Site in Dorchester County, most recently excavated by MHT archeologists in 2009. 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

WANTED: Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program Staff

Do you have an eye for detail?

Do you enjoy engaging with people?

Do you value historic buildings?

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Former tax credit staff Melissa Archer at Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse.

If so, you might want to consider applying for a position with MHT!  We are currently hiring two new preservation officers to serve as rehabilitation tax credit program reviewers within MHT’s Office of Preservation Services (OPS).  These new MHT’ers will have unique opportunities to make a real difference in the preservation of buildings large and small across the state.  Check out the job posting here — the deadline to apply is September 22.

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