Summer in the Conservation Lab

By Rebekah Engelland, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory Intern

During my summer internship with the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab), I learned much about the conservation of archeological materials. As a pre-program conservation intern looking at graduate schools, I knew very little about conservation practices. I first focused on the treatment of iron, spending time in the air abrasive unit (essentially a microscopic sand blaster), practicing on non-archeological iron that had corroded. Once I felt comfortable with the air abrasive unit, I moved on to iron from archeological sites that required conservation. The next step in treating iron is to remove the chlorides, one of the critical components to rust. Every week I had to check the amount of chlorides in six different containers as the salts were extracted from the artifacts and drawn into a caustic solution.

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Working on the Fifth Regiment Armory’s World War I Memorial in Baltimore

Following iron, I learned how to clean copper alloy artifacts, which involved using a scalpel under a microscope to remove soil and corrosion until I came down on a stable patina layer. I also cleaned white metal artifacts (tin, aluminum and lead) and applied a protective coating once no more soil or corrosion remained. For silver-plated items, I learned to use electrolytic reduction, an electrochemical technique, to help take off the outer layer of tarnish and limit the amount of polishing before I applied a protective coating of wax. Lead required a different approach, and I used electrolytic consolidation to reduce the corrosion on the surface of the lead artifacts.

Throughout the summer, I also had the opportunity to go out into the field and help on projects. MAC Lab Conservator Heather Rardin and I had the chance to see a laser cleaning demonstration at the Fifth Regiment Armory’s World War I Memorial in Baltimore, where the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, Inc. removed previous paint layers and dirt from both bronze and stone with a laser custom-built for conservation. One of the assistants let me try out the laser to clean a few feathers on one of the bronze eagles.

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Removing ship’s timbers at Alexandria’s historic waterfront

At the Alexandria, Virginia waterfront, MAC Lab Head Conservator Nichole Doub and I helped Alexandria Archaeology’s team with on-site conservation as they deconstructed a ship’s hull before an underground parking garage was built. The ship, along with two others, was deliberately sunk to be part of a late 18th century wharf. By the time I joined the project, the team was removing the ship’s timbers using a crane. Nichole guided the deconstruction process, making sure the team did as little damage as possible to the remains of the ship. We returned a couple days later and helped the team remove the ship’s keel, which I helped strap to the crane. It was incredible playing a small role in saving a part of Alexandria’s history.

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Cleaning statues in Prince Frederick

On another excursion, Heather and I went to the Prince Frederick courthouse and helped Howard Wellman Conservation LLC treat three statues. The marble and limestone bases were treated with a biocide and then scrubbed down. To coat the bronze statue, we used a blow torch to heat up the metal. Then we applied a protective layer of wax with the brush, heating it up more with the blow torch to remove the brush strokes. These treatments would protect the statues against both corrosion and biological growths, though they would need to be repeated every few years.

Over the summer I received an extensive education on archeological and object conservation from the amazing staff at the MAC Lab. This experience makes me feel much more prepared to apply to graduate conservation programs. I want to thank everyone at the MAC Lab for taking the time to teach me and making this a truly incredible internship.

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Join Us on June 15th and 16th for the Maryland Statewide Historic Preservation Conference at the University of Maryland, College Park

Maryland’s 2018 statewide historic preservation conference – combining Preservation Maryland’s annual Old Line State Summit with the Maryland Association of Historic District CommissionsAnnual Symposium – will offer an unparalleled professional training opportunity for the preservation community throughout the region. On Friday, June 15, the Old Line State Summit will focus on “Healthy, Hip & Historic,” followed by the June 16 MAHDC Symposium “When Money Is Tight but the Roof Isn’t,” will address the issue of affordability in historic communities. Conference sessions will take place at the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in College Park, Maryland.  Additional information and joint registration is available at oldlinestate.org.

Additional conference planning partners include the Maryland Historical Trust, University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Calvert County Government, Calvert County Historic District Commission, Rural Maryland Council, and Maryland Milestones State Heritage Area. Conference sponsors include AIA Maryland.

olss-college-park-web-banner-2018-01OLD LINE STATE SUMMIT
JUNE 15, 2018

The Old Line State Summit is for anyone who is committed to protecting the places that make Maryland special and those who want to know more about how the historic landscape plays a role in making our communities hip, healthy, and historic. Dr. Debarati Majumdar Narayan of the Health Impact Project about the impact of historic preservation on the health of our communities and ourselves is the keynote speaker. Additional sessions with discuss affordable housing, local food economies, smart growth, digital archiving and museum accessibility.

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MAHDC 2018 ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM
JUNE 16, 2018

At this year’s MAHDC Symposium – “When the Money is Tight, But the Roof Isn’t” – practitioners will share insights drawn from their experience maintaining affordability in communities and preserving historic properties. MAHDC will also use a forum model to discuss issues of affordability and how it impacts the communities where our participants live and work. Attendees will also have an opportunity to visit the Vendor Hall and speak to the vendors about their approaches to restoring, rehabilitating and repairing historical properties. The Symposium’s keynote speaker will be Charles Duff, President of Jubilee Baltimore, Inc. and Executive Director of Midtown Development, Inc. The afternoon’s featured speaker will be Lauren Oswalt McHale, President of The L’Enfant Trust, Washington, D.C.

Both the Summit and the Symposium are eligible for Certified Local Government Educational and Training Funds reimbursement. AIA CEU credits are available for Friday’s sessions.

Registration includes breakfast and lunch. Reduced registration is available for members of either Preservation Maryland or MAHDC and to session volunteers. Additionally, thanks to the generous support of the Rural Maryland Council, residents of Maryland’s eighteen rural counties will also receive reduced registration. We hope to see you there!

 

New Pieces of History at the MAC Lab

By Patricia Samford, Director, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory

It somehow seems appropriate that the acquisition by the State of Maryland of many of Baltimore’s most important artifact collections would occur during April — Maryland’s Archaeology Month.  These collections, which were generated through the work of the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology, will be curated by the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab) at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.

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A privy filled in the early 19th century at the Clagett’s Brewery site (18BC38) yielded 432 ceramic and glass vessels, including this unusual scratch blue pearlware chamberpot bearing the initials of England’s King George.

The formation of the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology in April of 1983 was arguably the single most influential action affecting archaeology in the city.  Baltimore mayor William Donald Schaefer, impressed by the Archaeology in Annapolis project, decided that a similar program was needed to promote heritage tourism in Baltimore. Mayor Schaefer envisioned excavations as a way, through the media and public visitation, of promoting Fallswalk, a new historic walking trail along Jones Falls.  In establishing the Center, Schaefer instituted the first public archaeology program ever funded by a major U. S. city.

Over the next fifteen years, the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology conducted historical research on 53 city properties, resulting in 21 excavations. Some of the most important projects included the Clagett Brewery (18BC38)—one of Baltimore’s earliest breweries—along Jones Falls, and Cheapside Wharf (18BC55), where the Inner Harbor is located today. The center’s work generated around 500 boxes of artifacts—collections that have revealed important evidence about the city’s past and its important role as a port city.

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Members of an Archaeological Conservancy tour admire artifacts from the privy at Clagett’s Brewery

Elizabeth A. Comer directed the BCUA from its inception in 1983 until 1988, when she left to work in tourism in the Schaefer administration. Upon her departure the direction of the BCUA was shared by Kristen Stevens Peters and Louise Akerson. Louise, who had been the BCUA’s Lab Director since 1983, assumed overall direction of the BCUA when Kristin left in 1990, and continued in that role until her retirement in 1996. Esther Doyle Read was the final director of the BCUA until it was dissolved, along with the City Life Museums, in 1997. The collections generated through the center’s work were acquired by the Maryland Historical Society. For the next twenty years, the collections and the records associated with the excavations were unavailable to researchers and students. Negotiations between the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore and the Maryland Historical Society resulted in the collections being turned over to the state in April of 2018.

The MAC Lab has already begun to make the collections available to the public.  A sample of artifacts from the Clagett Brewery Site was on display during Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum’s Discovering Archaeology Day event on April 21st and they were also popular with the Archaeological Conservancy tour of the lab.  Over the next several months, artifacts from the collections will begin to be added to the Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland website and also to Maryland Unearthed, a website that allows the public and researchers to learn more about the collections at the lab.   For more information about this collection or the work of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, please contact patricia.samford@maryland.gov.

Author’s note: This is a slighly updated version of the original article with a few factual errors corrected.

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.

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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.

Preserving Chesapeake Heritage: Navigating the Tubman Landscape amid Rising Tides

By Jessica Brannock, Communications Intern

In 2007, roughly 17 acres of wetlands within Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) were dedicated to create the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad (HTUR) State Park. These lands and waterways where Tubman lived and worked as a young woman, enslaved by the Brodess family, make up just a fraction of the 25,000 acres of land in Dorchester County dedicated to the HTUR National Monument. While the park’s Visitor Center offers exhibits on the life and heroism of Tubman, the true monument to her legacy is the landscape itself—and it’s disappearing.

Over the course of a decade, Tubman returned to this landscape 13 times and guided 70 slaves to freedom. Hiding in the marshes by day and traveling by foot and boat at night, Tubman and other freedom seekers relied on their knowledge of Chesapeake waterways, plant, and animal life to survive the journey north.

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Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, LEED silver certified, and constructed on higher ground to protect the building against rising sea levels.

Today, much of the wildlife found in the brackish tidal marshes and hardwood forests of Blackwater NWR are typical of what Tubman encountered over 150 years ago. However, preserving these habitats and heritage is an ever-present challenge as wetlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed are threatened by environmental change.

Current water levels in Blackwater NWR are much higher than when Tubman navigated the rivers and marshes to freedom. Since the NWR’s establishment in 1933, over 5,000 acres of wetlands have been lost to sea level rise.

Marshes act as buffers between land and water, filtering out toxins and absorbing the forces of storms and tides, and Tubman would have been familiar with the tidal rhythms that flooded the wetlands with saltwater and ebbed back with the flow of freshwater tributaries. As sea levels rise, however, saltwater mingles more heavily with fresh, destroying salt-sensitive plant-life as marshlands erode and give way to flooding. By the end of the century, climate science predicts that sea levels will rise in the Bay region between 3 and 4 feet.

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Patches of bare forest and exposed tree roots, destroyed by saltwater intrusion are reminders of rising tides, and the imminent loss of habitat that follows.

The HTUR Visitor Center was constructed with the vulnerability of the landscape in mind. The building is sustainably designed to LEED silver standards and includes bioretention ponds, rain barrels, and vegetative roofs. Located near the Little Blackwater River, where Tubman worked checking muskrat traps as a child, the site was strategically elevated, placing the building on higher ground—a precautionary measure against the accelerating rate of sea level rise. With nearly 300 acres of marsh within the NWR lost each year, the wetlands could be fully submerged by 2050.

Actions can be taken to slow the loss and preserve the landscape so valuable for its habitat and history. In 2017, the Conservation Fund, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Audubon Society partnered to raise 40 acres of marshland within the NWR. This thin-layering process spread 26,000 cubic yards of sediment dredged from the Blackwater River across the wetlands, raising the marshes by 4-6 inches. Along with large scale tree and marsh grass planting, these efforts will help reduce the pace of flooding over the next decade.

As tides rise, the landscapes that hold our heritage will continue to suffer losses to their environmental and historical resources. In the coming years, we must acknowledge environmental threats and face them head on, so that future generations may continue to experience and interpret the legacy of our national treasures.

Liberty Grace Church of God, Baltimore City – Community Outreach and a Historic Bowling Alley (Guest Blog)

By Dr. Terris King, Senior Pastor, Liberty Grace Church of God

The things that bring people together are often surprising. And so it was with a bowling alley tucked into the basement of a West Baltimore church. As the current Senior Pastor of Liberty Grace Church of God, Baltimore, Maryland, I was inspired to renovate the church’s abandoned bowling alley after reading Antero Pietila’s first book, “Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City,” which highlights the struggle of Jewish and African American immigrants as they settled throughout Baltimore. According to Pietila, a cozy little West Baltimore neighborhood called Ashburton became the first neighborhood in Baltimore and in the nation to openly embrace integration with African Americans, Jews and whites living together. But when a church was sold to a predominately African American congregation, and that congregation closed the basement bowling alley that served as a gathering place for the community, Jewish residents and members of the Beth Tefillah congregation were among those who left the neighborhood.

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Liberty Grace Church of God in Ashburton

Since 2015, Liberty Grace Church of God has worked to reimagine the church as a central place for community gathering, while providing community members with nutrition education and exercise in order combat obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes. It started with nutritious, healthy food delivered by the Maryland Food Bank. The church is so focused on this initiative that it established the Grace Foundation, a non-profit to lead the nutrition project and serve the community. The Grace Foundation has also successfully piloted exercise, Zumba and meditation programs. The renovation of the historic bowling alley is an upcoming stage in this larger project to increase exercise and activity levels in the community. With additional funding, the Grance Foundation hopes to renovate their facility, including an outdoor kitchen, into a teaching kitchen with classrooms for the community.

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Current condition of the historic bowling alley

With over 20 years in ministry and executive-level service in health care, I have used my dual career experience to bring nutrition education to Baltimore city. I see the church as a major asset in improving the well-being of West Baltimore’s citizens, beginning with the Ashburton community. I believe the bowling alley will be a community draw that rivals the success of the food giveaway and am excited about this building becoming the epicenter of the community once again.

Using the National Register to Connect Baltimore City Students with Neighborhood History (Guest Blog)

By Jeff Buchheit, Executive Director, Baltimore National Heritage Area

Since 2016, the Baltimore National Heritage Area (BNHA) has partnered with the Maryland Historical Trust and Baltimore Heritage (the city’s preservation advocacy organization) on a project that engages Baltimore City Public School students in an exploration of their local history using the research standards and processes necessary in developing nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. Through the project, students investigate Baltimore’s significant role in the Civil Rights Movement and the people and places that reflect this critical time in U.S. and Maryland history.

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Baltimore School of the Arts students prepare for their upcoming field trip.

The heritage area’s primary role is to help teachers and their students connect to historic sites and resources for researching the Civil Rights Movement. Key partner sites have included the Maryland Historical Society and the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum, which operates under the stewardship of Morgan State University.

Initial planning meetings brought together the BNHA, Baltimore Heritage, Baltimore City Public Schools, the Maryland Historical Society, and the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. A handful of Baltimore City Public Schools teachers were identified based on their classroom studies in African American history and the Civil Rights Movement. Those teachers attended an October 2017 workshop during which Baltimore Heritage Executive Director Johns Hopkins provided an overview of the National Register nomination process. Following the presentation, the teachers toured the collections of the Maryland Historical Society and the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. At the end of the workshop, teachers scheduled nine field trips, five of which took place in the fall of 2017.

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Baltimore Heritage’s Johns Hopkins talks to students at the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum.

Perhaps the key takeaway for the students on the field trips has been their exposure to the use of primary documents in research, and the phenomenal contributions (past and present) of Baltimore citizens in the Civil Rights Movement. The heritage area is meeting its overarching goal too: raising student awareness and pride in their history and their neighborhoods. Students have been very engaged, and the teachers are asking “What else can we do together?” — a real win-win for everyone.