Architectural Survey on Smith Island

by Allison Luthern, Architectural Survey Administrator

Historical architectural survey describes the process of locating, identifying, and recording historic places. It is the important initial step of all historic preservation activities – we need to start by understanding what exists where. The Maryland Historical Trust has supported architectural survey since our founding in the 1960s. The results of our architectural surveys are contained within the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP).

MHT’s Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Program recently funded survey work by architectural historian Paul Touart in Somerset County, including properties on Smith Island. Smith Island is the last surviving inhabited island off the shores of Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay. Early in its history, the island was occupied by the Pocomoke and Assateague peoples, Native American tribes who also lived along the Eastern Shore streams. The first English landowner was Henry Smith (the island’s namesake) in the middle of the 17th century. Anglo-Americans continued to inhabit Smith Island through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.  

Smith’s Island, Lake, Griffing & Stevenson Map, 1877.

The recent survey project documented one of the oldest surviving buildings on Smith Island, known as Black Walnut Point. Its inventory number in the MIHP is S-536-6. The architectural survey provides a physical description of the house: It has a two-story, three-bay side hall/parlor plan main block supported on a stuccoed masonry foundation with an exterior sheathed in beaded weatherboards. The gable roof is covered with wood shingles. Attached to the back of the main block is a two-story, two-part service wing that dates from the third quarter of the 19th century, around 1860-70.

Black Walnut Point, photo by Paul B. Touart

The survey also details the property’s history through its ownership by two prominent Smith Island families, the Tylers and Marshalls. Today, it is the Smith Island Education Center.

Black Walnut Point, photo by Paul B. Touart

Beginning in the second half of the 19th century through the early 20th century, the Lower Shore region experienced growth and economic prosperity associated with new railway lines, agriculture, and the seafood industry – the latter being particularly important for Smith Island. During this time period, each of the three Smith Island communities (Tylerton, Ewell, and Rhodes Point) built a new Methodist church building. These three churches were also surveyed in our recent project.

Ewell United Methodist Church (S-536-1) is a single-story, gable front building on a raised, rusticated block foundation. It has a symmetrical façade and is topped by a square belfry. It was built in 1939-40 on a site that has long been associated with the practice of Methodism. Adjacent to the church is a parsonage, a tabernacle, and a cemetery.

Ewell United Methodist Church, photo by Paul B. Touart

Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church (S-536-4) is located in the center of Rhodes Point. It is a single-story, L-shaped building with a marble date stone that reads: “1921 / Calvary M.E. Church / Reverend J.L. Derrickson.” It is also surrounded by a large cemetery with both in-ground and above ground vaulted burial plots.

Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church, photo by Paul B. Touart

The third church, Union Methodist Episcopal Church (S-536-8), is in Tylerton. It was built around 1920-1930, using salvaged materials from an earlier 1896 church. It is a rectangular shaped church on a raised, rusticated block foundation with a large columned projecting pavilion flanked by towers. Like many historic Methodist churches, the sanctuary inside is on the upper level.

Union Methodist Episcopal Church, photo by Paul B. Touart

If you want to learn more, you can view all MIHP survey records, including more properties on Smith Island, on our website, https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/.

Ground Truth: Recent Investigations of Ground Penetrating Radar Anomalies by the MHT Archaeological Research Program

By Dr. Zachary Singer (MHT Research Archaeologist)

The theme for Maryland Archeology Month 2022 is “The Future of Studying the Past: Innovative Technologies in Maryland Archeology”. One suite of innovative technologies that is being highlighted is remote sensing: methods which allow archaeologists to detect cultural resources buried beneath the ground surface. Remote sensing technologies have transformed how archaeologists study the past. Today, with the aid of high precision GPS receivers and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping software, the coordinates of potential archaeological resources can be precisely located via remote sensing, recorded and plotted in GIS, and then surgically examined through excavations pinpointed to their exact locations.

Over the years, the MHT Office of Archaeology had dabbled with these technologies, carrying out some limited survey with magnetic susceptibility technologies or partnering with others for such work. Beginning in 2019, MHT Chief Archaeologist, Matt McKnight, began a push to acquire additional equipment with which to undertake a more rigourous terrestrial remote sensing research program. The remote sensing technologies deployed by our office include a magnetic susceptibility meter (MagSusc), a fluxgate gradiometer, and a ground penetrating radar (GPR) system. We also utilize a high-precision GPS system capable of pinpointing a location on the Earth’s Surface accurate to within 7 millimeters (or about 1/4 inch).

MHT archaeologists have assisted with remote sensing surveys on archaeological sites throughout Maryland and identified many intriguing anomalies suggestive of archaeological features. However, as is always the case with remote sensing data, these potential features are just that: potential features. Without archaeological ground truthing through excavation it is not possible to conclude with absolute certainty what the various anomalies identified via remote sensing represent. Fortunately, our office has collaborated with many members of the Maryland archaeology community to ground truth (or physically excavate) some of the intriguing anomalies identified via our remote sensing surveys to determine their forms, functions, and ages. Below, we present a sampling of some of these exciting ground truthing results.

Barwick’s Ordinary (Caroline County)

MHT archaeologists carried out a geophysical remote sensing survey at the Barwick’s Ordinary Site on the Choptank River in Caroline County during the summers of 2019 and 2020 to examine a field where the owners of the property had encountered colonial artifacts during a prior landscaping project. The primary objectives of remote sensing at the site were to obtain detailed imaging of the subsurface features believed to be yielding the artifacts recovered on the property. Magnetic susceptibility, gradiometry, and GPR surveys on the property revealed several anomalies suggestive of buried architectural elements.

Annotated results of the MagSusc, Gradiometer, and GPR remote sensing surveys at Barwick’s
Ordinary.

In the fall of 2020, with assistance from ASM volunteers, locals, and Professor Julie Markin of Washington College, a few small test units were excavated to ground truth the anomalies at Barwick’s. The results confirm that the site contains well-preserved, artifact rich, mid-late 18th century archaeological features. Come participate in additional ground truthing excavations this summer at the Annual Tyler Bastian Field Session, which will take place at Barwick’s Ordinary from May 20-30, 2022.

Dr. Matt McKnight ground truthing a GPR anomaly, which was revealed to be the corner of a likely 18th-century privy at the Barwick’s Ordinary site.

Calverton (Calvert County)

In the summer of 2020, MHT archaeologists conducted a ground penetrating radar survey at the 17th-century Calverton Site in Calvert County in an area located within 10 meters of the eroding edge of Battle Creek. The creek is slowly destroying the site and the goal of the GPR survey was to identify anomalies in the portion of the site most at risk of loss from shoreline erosion. The GPR survey would later be investigated via ground truthing using traditional archaeological methods.

Annotated results of the GPR remote sensing survey at Calverton, highlighting the location of a shaft anomaly, which ground truthing determined to be a 17th-century
cellar (CLICK IMAGE TO EXPAND).

Seven likely anthropogenic features were identified in the GPR survey at Calverton. Eight test units were excavated by Applied Archaeology and History Associates during the summer of 2020 to assess these GPR anomalies. The excavations resulted in the identification of ten cultural features, which yielded late 17th- and early 18th-century artifacts including tobacco pipes, a Charles I sixpence coin (1639-1645), and sherds of tin-glazed earthenware. The largest and most artifact-dense feature related to the colonial occupation of Calverton was an in-filled cellar.

Photo of the 17th century cellar feature after it was bisected to ground truth the GPR
anomaly.

Maiden’s Choice (Washington County)

In the spring of 2021, MHT conducted a GPR survey at the Maiden’s Choice I site in Washington County to search for buried domestic structures. The GPR survey revealed the presence of an anomaly suggestive of a subsurface foundation remnant roughly 40 ft east-west by 20 ft north-south, and with an apparent chimney remnant (roughly 5 X 5 ft) near the center. In the fall of 2021, MHT collaborated with the Western Chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland to excavate three test units to ground truth these GPR anomalies. The ground truthing excavations uncovered remnant rubble stone foundations with artifacts recovered from the plowzone dating primarily to the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

3D models of the excavation units that revealed the remains of a late 18th century
foundation.

Domestic artifacts were present such as furniture tacks, buttons, clay marbles, handwrought nails and coins including a 1776 Spanish half-reale, a pierced 1796 half dime, and a “draped bust” American half cent (1800-1808). A Napoleon Bonaparte First Consulate German jetton was also recovered. A jetton is a commemorative token or medal and this one likely dates to the years 1799-1804, before Napolean was coronated as Emperor. The fall 2021 excavations suggest that this site is a domestic site associated with the Barnes-Mason family that occupied the Maiden’s Choice property after 1773.

Fortunately, in the three examples discussed above, ground truthing of remote sensing anomalies resulted in the discovery of artifact rich archaeological features. However, this is not always the case. Remote sensing anomalies can also be caused by natural occurrences like bioturbation from plant roots and animal burrows. Accordingly, although it is tempting to jump straight from remote sensing results to archaeological site interpretation, the step of ground truthing cannot be skipped. Excavations will always be necessary to determine whether remote sensing anomalies are in fact the remains of
exciting archaeological features or less exciting gopher holes.

3D Visualization for Archaeology and Open Educational Resources (OER)

By Chris Givan (JPPM Digital Education Coordinator) and Noah Boone (JPPM Digital Education Content Developer)

Photogrammetry is a technique for creating 3D models, which is increasingly common in cultural and research contexts. At Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, we’ve been using photogrammetry to create models of archaeological sites and artifacts that may not be accessible to visitors or which may be of interest to folks for whom the park is inaccessible because of its location. Thanks to a project funded by an IMLS CARES Act Grant for Museums and Libraries, we’ve begun to provide photogrammetric models as Open Education Resources (OER) and are exploring how to replicate, at home or in the classroom, the experience of visiting archaeological sites or interacting with artifacts.

Photogrammetry software creates 3-dimensional data by analyzing photos taken at multiple angles around a subject. This can be done using a variety of programs, both proprietary (Agisoft Metashape, Reality Capture, etc) and free-and-open-source (Meshroom, MicMac, etc). This process requires a high degree of overlap between photos by moving the camera or subject in small increments, such as with small rotations on a turntable. The programs identify like points between these photographs and construct a 3-dimensional point cloud (below, left). This point cloud can then be further processed to create a 3-dimensional model that can be viewable and distributable for a variety of purposes (below, right).

Side-by-side comparison of a point-cloud, left, and a mesh, right, in Agisoft Metashape. The rectangles surrounding and overlapping the image are Agisoft’s estimation of where the camera was when a corresponding photograph was taken.

Photogrammetry is incredibly scalable and results are primarily dependent on camera equipment. This method can be used with drone photography for creating models of landscapes and buildings and macro-photography can even be used to create models of insects. Photogrammetry offers many exciting possibilities to look at things in a different light and look at things at angles or scales that would otherwise not be possible.

We’re using our models from photogrammetry in a number of ways. First, we will be making models available as resources for anyone with a use for them on JPPM’s SketchFab page. SketchFab is a website for hosting and sharing 3D models, which includes contributions from cultural institutions around the world. We particularly like SketchFab because museum accounts allow you to restrict downloads if dealing with artifacts or sites for which you have received permission to make the models viewable but not redistributable.

Below are two objects on SketchFab that we have scanned with photogrammetry. The model of the site known as Sukeek’s Cabin includes annotations, an additional benefit of using SketchFab that allows us to add educational content directly to models.

However, publishing on SketchFab does limit interactivity and we want to replicate some of the physicality of visiting sites or seeing artifacts up close. There are also practical limits to what can be included in annotations. To achieve more interactivity we’re using the service Genial.ly. SketchFab models can be embedded directly into Genial.ly “microsites” with rich media or additional interactivity. Below, we used photogrammetry to model an “alphabet plate” found at Sukeek’s Cabin. We’ve used Genial.ly to simulate another dimension of “handling” the object by encouraging viewers to reassemble 2D views of the fragments. Even though this additional interaction is 2-dimensional, it derives from photogrammetry of the plate. On an interesting note, we were able to do this by photographing the plate while it remained in its display at JPPM’s Visitor’s Center, and the interaction we’ve simulated is not actually possible in person given preservation needs.

To enable even more interactivity, we’re using Unity, a game engine for creating both 3D and 2D content. Unity is commonly used for indie games but its streamlined experience and support for computers, mobile devices, and web browsers makes it excellent for education–as does a large community of users and assets to help speed development. By shifting from SketchFab and Genial.ly, where we’re limited to either visualizing a model in 3-dimensions or simulating additional interactions with the model from 2-dimensional perspectives, Unity enables interaction with archaeological sites and artifacts from the first person perspective or with controllers that do a better job approximating the feel of an object.

In the video below, you can see a very early experience of “walking” around the Sukeek’s Cabin site here on park property. Despite the ghostly reconstruction (because parts of it are hypothetical or not known with confidence*), there is still a sense of hominess when inside and the stairs in the corner invite further exploration. In the distance, we have added a representation of the Peterson house. Newly emancipated, Sukeek and family were still living within sight of their former captor’s home. From the first person perspective, the house feels watchful–a feeling difficult to replicate in SketchFab or Genial.ly, missing from the site today, but true to the limits newly-freed families often found on their freedom.

A user explores the virtual environment around the Sukeek’s Cabin site. The photogrammetric model is visible on the ground as are interactive hotspots. A “ghost” of the home can be toggled on and off to get a sense of what it would have looked like.

We use these results in Open Education Resources (OER): free and openly-licensed resources that encourage reuse and remixing. (For more information, see this explainer from the University of Maryland or visit our Provider Set on OER Commons for examples.) For OER, photogrammetry offers a way to present lots of information with each resource. Photos and videos preserve how an artifact or archaeological site looks from a limited set of views, but digital models can preserve how a subject looks from any point of view, even those that may not be practically accessible. Where photogrammetry excels as an educational tool, though, is in approximating being able to tangibly interact with an artifact or site. While most interactions still rely on 2D screens, the opportunity to move and manipulate 3D models within those 2D interfaces helps replicate some of the sense of holding an object. As AR/VR and 3D printers improve, having a 3D model of an artifact or site will only improve in educational effectiveness.

*In addition to the current staff at JPPM, we are indebted to conversations with Kirsti Uunila and Ed Chaney for guidance on how the cabin would have looked.

Announcing the FY 2022 Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Awards

MHT is proud to share the FY2022 recipients of our Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grants! This  grant program, which is funded through the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority Financing Fund, supports a wide variety of research, survey, planning, and educational activities involving architectural, archaeological, or cultural resources.

This year, a total of $300,000 is being awarded to non-profit organizations and universities for an exciting slate of eight projects across the state. Below are descriptions of all the projects awarded: 

The 2022 Tyler Bastian Field Session – The Archeological Society of Maryland, Inc. 

($17,000) 

This annual event provides a hands-on opportunity for laypersons to learn archaeological methods under the direction of professional archaeologists. The funds will cover field session expenses as well as the hiring of contractors to produce a final report and prepare artifacts for permanent curation. 

Preliminary work was conducted last year at the site of Barwick’s Ordinary, an eighteenth-century tavern and home of the first county seat for Caroline County, where the 2022 Field Session will be held next spring. MHT staff photo.

Documenting Dairy Farms in Northern Maryland Phase II – The Center for Historic Architecture and Design, University of Delaware 

($40,000) 

This project will be the second of a multi-year effort to document historic dairy farms and their associated farm structures, resources that are fast disappearing in Maryland. Phase II will take place in Harford, Montgomery, and Washington counties, producing approximately 12 Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties forms, measured drawings for three farm complexes, and a brief historic context of dairy farming in each county. 

The Roop Farm, also known as Margaret’s Fancy, in Carroll County was documented during Phase I of this project. Photo courtesy of the Center for Historic Architecture and Design. 

Tracing Piscataway Indian History on the Ground – St. Mary’s College of Maryland 

($60,000)

This project involves archaeological survey work on several fifteenth to eighteenth-century Piscataway sites along the north shore of the Potomac River. Research will focus on the identification of both Native and European trade items to explore how these items circulated within Piscataway practices and systems of meaning. A summary report will be produced detailing the project’s findings. As the 400th anniversary of Maryland draws near, this project presents an important opportunity to center narratives of the Piscataway in this transformational period. 

Trade items represented more than just economic exchanges to Indigenous communities. The exchange of objects, including beads, occurred within a web of rules, practices, and relationships laden with meaning and developed over the preceding centuries. Photo courtesy of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  

A Survey of Brick Construction in Colonial Maryland – Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation 

($44,000)

This project will trace the evolution and development of masonry building traditions in Maryland between 1634 and 1750. During this time period, the use of brick construction by a select few of the colony’s elite contrasted dramatically with the ephemeral building practices of neighbors, a distinction that has never been studied. Approximately ten buildings will be selected for detailed documentation, including measured drawings, field notes, and photographic prints. 

Dendrochronology has positively identified Araby in Charles County as within this early period of masonry construction, dating to 1746. Photo courtesy of Willie Graham. 

Southern Maryland Tobacco Barns Survey and Documentation – University of Maryland 

($42,000) 

Tobacco barns that date before c. 1870 in Southern Maryland will be surveyed for this project. These resources are highly endangered due to functional obsolescence and development pressure. The survey will systematically identify and document previously unknown tobacco barns and update information on resources identified in earlier efforts. Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties forms and a final survey report will be produced.

This survey will provide new interpretive analysis of Maryland tobacco barns, such as the recognition that sheds, as seen on each side of the De La Brooke Tobacco Barn in St. Mary’s County, were often original construction features rather than later additions as previously believed. MHT staff photo.  

Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom: Recording Anne Arundel County’s Past – The Lost Towns Project 

($40,000) 

This project will undertake a detailed archival and literature review of nineteenth-century Black housing in the Chesapeake. The investigators will create a database of approximately 100 such sites, conduct field visits to approximately 20 sites to assess their condition, create or update Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties site data, and write a summary report to disseminate the findings. Through this study, the project aims to broaden public support for the protection and preservation of Black historical spaces.  

This is a multidisciplinary project that may employ documentation techniques such as remote sensing. In this photo, Lost Towns uses ground penetrating radar to investigate the slave cemetery at Whitehall. Photo courtesy of the Lost Towns Project. 

National Register of Historic Places Nomination of Columbia Beach – Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation 

($40,000) 

This project includes the preparation of a National Register nomination for Columbia Beach, a community in Anne Arundel County established as a summer retreat for African Americans during the segregation era, when racist policies barred the Black community from other resort towns along the Chesapeake Bay. The timing of this nomination is critical, as Columbia Beach is currently threatened by development and climate change.  

African American professionals from Washington, DC and Baltimore built many of the early cottages in Columbia Beach. MHT staff photo. 

Architectural Survey of U.S. Route 1: Washington, DC to Baltimore – Anacostia Trails Heritage Area 

($17,000) 

This project will include a reconnaissance survey and the preparation of a historic context report for resources along U.S. Route 1 from Washington, DC to Baltimore City, including Prince George’s, Howard, and Baltimore counties. This is intended to be Phase I of a multi-year project to document the unique resources along U.S. Route 1, including tourist cabin hotels and roadside architecture, minority-owned commercial buildings, and light industrial complexes.  

This architectural survey will record vernacular commercial structures from the recent past, such as this row of commercial buildings in the 1300 block of Baltimore Avenue, College Park. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Trust.  

Availability of FY 2023 funds through the Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Program will be announced in the spring of 2022 on MHT’s website (https://mht.maryland.gov/grants_noncap.shtml). Application deadlines and workshop dates will also be found on this page at that time. 

For more information about the grant program, please contact Heather Barrett, Administrator of Architectural Research at MHT, at 410-697-9536 or heather.barrett@maryland.gov.  For information about organizations receiving grants, please contact the institutions directly. 

MHAA Welcomes New Members to its Grant Review Panel

Last year, MHAA transformed its grant review process to feature a panel of exceptional reviewers from all backgrounds and areas of expertise. Including representatives of nonprofit organizations, cultural institutions, state employees, and members of the public, the panel is responsible for reading and ranking the over 200 applications MHAA receives each grant round.  

This past year, MHAA was happy to welcome nine new members to our grants panel, with expertise in fields ranging from education and preservation to communications and art. You can read short bios for the new panelists below. If you are interested in joining the grants review panel for FY 2023 round, you can learn more about the process here and submit this form for consideration by December 31, 2021. 

Garland A. Thomas, Department of Housing and Community Development 

Garland Thomas is a representative of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, where he serves as Assistant Director of the Statewide Team for the Neighborhood Revitalization Unit – Team 2. He has years of experience in state government, administering several state revitalization programs. Serving on the grants panel, he brings expertise in project management, economic development, and grants management.  

Charlotte Davis (Frederick County) 

Charlotte Davis is the Executive Director of the Rural Maryland Council and has more than twenty years of experience serving the state of Maryland. She currently oversees the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund and the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment fund. Her years of experience working with rural Maryland allows her to offer invaluable insights into potential projects across the state.  

Lenett Nef’fahtiti Partlow-Myrick (Pikesville, MD) 

Lenett Nef’fahtiti Partlow-Myrick is an artist, poet, writer, and instructor of English at Howard Community College. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in the Transdisciplinary Leadership doctoral program at the University of Vermont. She has worked with local, state, and national organizations and has over forty years of experience in fundraising, grant writing, and the proposal review process. Across all of her work, she has maintained a commitment to cultural preservation and sustainability. With her work being displayed at a number of prestigious institutions, Ms. Partlow-Myrick brings a wealth of expertise in the fields of art and culture to the grants review panel.  

Elinor Thompson, Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture  

Elinor Thompson is serving on the panel as a representative of the Maryland Commission on American History and Culture. For over thirty-five years, Elinor has worked in the non-profit sphere on historic preservation and genealogy. She is an expert in preserving and interpreting church and cemetery records and has used her expertise to examine family and community histories. She brings extensive experience with projects pertaining to cemeteries, community history, and cultural heritage.  

Heather Savino (Baltimore, MD) 

Heather Savino is the Director of Development and Marketing for Patterson Park Public Charter School, Inc. She has experience in social work, community action, and social policy. On the panel, she has provided insight into working with youth, representing the LGBTQ* community, and investigating the intersection of race and social services. 

Linda Moore-Garoute (Prince George’s County) 

Linda Moore-Garoute is the Vice President of the Cedar Haven Association on the Patuxent River and Vice Chair of the Town of Eagle Harbor Environmental Advisory Committee. She is an expert in climate change mitigation, being certified as a Climate Change Professional in the state of Maryland in 2020. She has experience working with Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Trust Foundation, and the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission. On the panel, she has focused on finding solutions to mitigate climate change impacts, creating sustainable heritage tourism projects, and highlighting African American cultural landscapes.   

Stephen DelSordo (Cambridge, MD) 

Stephen DelSordo has close ties to the Maryland Heritage Areas Program. He was a founding member of the Heart of the Chesapeake Heritage Area and sat as its first chair for ten years. Since then, he has worked closely with the Indian Tribes of Montana on heritage tourism programs. He brings a national perspective to the grants panel, having worked on heritage tourism projects around the county.  

Samia Rab Kirchner (Baltimore, MD) 

Samia Kirchner is an associate professor of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University. She has years of experience working in historic preservation and is an expert in urban conservation and waterfront redevelopment. In the past several years, she has applied her expertise to the International Council on Monuments and Sites, serving as a member of their International Cultural Tourism Committee and a desk reviewer for their World Heritage Nomination Dossiers. Her expertise in historic preservation and her experience with the ICOMOS allow her to bring a global perspective to the grants review process, supported by extensive knowledge of the industry’s best practices.  

Jennifer Shea (Claiborne, MD and Chevy Chase, MD) 

Jennifer Shea is a communications strategist and filmmaker with experience in education, theatre, and the arts. Currently, she serves as the Writer and Strategist for the Herson Group, a well known communications consulting firm. Prior to this position, Jennifer worked at Cornell University both as a lecturer and administrator. Outside of these positions, Jennifer has worked in film, directing an oral history project for the Tilghman Watermen’s Museum that was screened on Maryland Public Television and PBS. She is also serving on the board of Maryland Humanities and has past board experience in education and the arts. Jennifer’s years of experience in these fields allows her to contribute a critical perspective when assessing projects through a cultural, educational, and artistic lens.  

We are excited to welcome these exceptional new members to our grants panel. To learn more about MHAA, visit https://mht.maryland.gov/heritageareas.shtml. If you would like to see the great projects that this panel helped fund, you can view a full list at https://mht.maryland.gov/documents/PDF/MHAA/MHAA_CurrentGrantAwards.pdf.    

Updated COVID-19 Survey Results: Maryland’s Cultural Heritage Organizations Continue to Struggle

One full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland’s cultural heritage organizations continue to suffer from the economic fallout of the crisis. The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) and the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) are eager to understand the situation and find ways to support our partner organizations across the state. To that end, MHAA and MHT conducted two surveys, one in April 2020 and one in March of 2021. Both sets of survey responses highlight the severe economic ramifications that organizations have suffered to date, as well as the respondents’ expectations that these ramifications will linger even after the public health crisis starts to subside.  

When compared to the data from last year’s survey, the March 2021 survey respondents reported  an increase in every metric. Organizations have lost more income, laid off more staff, and expect to need a longer recovery time. 

The clearest impact of the pandemic has been on organizations’ income. Many of Maryland’s museums, Main Street businesses, and other heritage sites rely on visitation and events for the majority of their revenue. With the pandemic starting in early spring, these sites were shut down during the fair weather months, when they typically see their highest visitor count. Even as the state begins to re-open, many organizations are seeing smaller than average crowds. Small museums, historic homes, and local historical societies are some of the hardest hit organizations.  

This trend is reflected in the data, with four out of five respondents reporting a loss of income due to COVID-19 and with over 75% of respondents stating that their “income had decreased substantially.” This loss represents an increase of over 25% from last year’s survey. To account for this loss, 38% of organizations surveyed have had to tap into their financial reserves and 73% have considered a temporary or permanent reduction in staff.   

When compared to last year, organizations now expect a longer recovery time. When asked how long they would need to return to  pre-pandemic levels of revenue, 70% of organizations said they would need 6 months or longer and 44% of organizations said they would need 1 year or longer. Some organizations commented that the prolonged economic strain of the virus had significantly reduced their capacity while others feared a loss of relevance and community connection as a result of the shift to digital programming. Even with vaccines rolling out and the end of the pandemic potentially approaching, it is clear that the effects of COVID-19 will continue to challenge Maryland’s cultural organizations for some time to come.   

MHAA and MHT are taking several actions to help our partner organizations  continue their important work in a post-pandemic world. For their current grant round, MHAA will allow grantees to use up to $20,000 of their awards for COVID-19 related operating costs, and MHAA has provided over $1,018,453 in direct aid to date. MHT and MHAA will also host a listening session on Friday, June 4th at 9:30am,where members from partner organizations will be invited to discuss their challenges and successes during the pandemic. The listening session will give MHAA and MHT a fuller picture of our partner organizations’ struggles and allow attendees to share their experiences – and perhaps tips for adapting to our new realities – with each other. For more information on the listening session, click the link here: https://bit.ly/3vlbm5l 

Before the pandemic, MHAA and our partners generated $2.4 billion in economic impact and supported  over 33,000 jobs annually . Even as the pandemic made indoor activities unsafe, visitors continued to seek out Maryland’s outdoor heritage tourism experiences. Maryland State Parks reported record numbers of visitation for 2020. As this data shows, the demand for heritage tourism experiences remains high and Maryland’s cultural heritage organizations will continue to be economic drivers after the pandemic. We recognize that it is more important than ever to support our  partner organizations during this difficult time, and we are committed to protecting Maryland’s history and culture and making it accessible to visitors into the future.  

To join our round-table discussion and share insights on the effects of the pandemic on the heritage tourism field, please be sure to sign up for our listening session here: https://bit.ly/3vlbm5l