Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Friday, November 11, 2005


This so-called "blog" has suffered immensely from neglect, and I have been feeling guilty about it. SO, this is my online pledge to you, gentle reader, that I will post at least once a week. It will probably be on Fridays, but maybe also on Tuesdays.

I hope that nobody minds if provide a brief recap of what this blog is about and the project that it is linked to. We (Bob and I) are archaeologists for the Center for Heritage Resource Studies at the University of Maryland. We are not paid for this distinction, except for when we can raise money through grants that pay us. Bob is also a PhD student at University of Michigan, and I am a PhD student at American University.

We started thinking about this project in the spring of 2003, while finishing our master's degrees at the University of Maryland. Bob had a strong interest in labor archaeology and history, and was preparing a survey of labor archaeology sites in Maryland. I had a strong interest in responsible and community archaeology, as well as the archaeology of the Chesapeake. I also lived in Hampden, and had, in wandering around the neighborhood, become interested in its history. We decided to undertake a community archaeology project in Hampden together. We envisioned a project that would involve as many community members as possible in as much decision-making as possible while incorporating history, archaeology, and ethnography.

I began by researching area history and writing a small grant to fund public history workshops. The plan was to hold three of these workshops in order to try to understand how people in Hampden thought about their history and, in turn how we should proceed with our research. After getting a small grant from Maryland Humanities Council we held three such workshops in the fall of 2004. Guest speakers (Bill Harvey, Bill Barry and Bob Chidester) lead the attendees in lenghty discussions of heritage issues in Hampden.

One of the things that these discussions verified for us was that Hampdenites have a strong sense of history and heritage, and that it factors into their contemporary consciousness. Another insight was that many peoople who live here divide the neighborhood into "Old Hamdpen" and "New Hampden", and that this division has all kinds of consequences for social life in Hampden. Hampdenites also told us that they were concerned with issues of class, race, gentrification, family structure and gender, and labor.

From these workshops, we developed a loose research design to guide our future archaeological research. It is available for download at our Website, along with several newly transcribed oral histories from the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project. With the generous help of three landowners, we were able to find three sites in Hampden, dating from three different eras to begin our archaeological explorations.

We began in July of 2005 with a group of kids from the Baltimore City Youthworks program and the Hampden Community Council, who provided generous funding for the project. We excavated at three sites, recovering hundreds, if not thousands of artifacts from our test units. We held two site open houses and, I think, accomplished a great deal over the course of the summer.

We are currently seeking additional funding to continue the project next summer. We are also in the process of cleaning, cataloging, and interpreting artifacts, a process that is quite painstaking. Since Bob and I are currently in school, this is proceeding more slowly than expected. We hope, however, to have a brief report on our initial excavations by the spring.


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