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April 29, 2011

UMBC Archaeologist, Students to Receive Preserve America Steward Award

Chelsea Haddaway
UMBC Communications Manager

On Wednesday, May 4, Esther Read, ancient studies lecturer, and her students will be recognized with a Preserve America Steward Award for their work on 1627 Aliceanna St. in Fell’s Point.

The building is a rare 18th century wooden structure that once housed the Leeke Academy. The academy is believed to be the schoolhouse mentioned in the diaries of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who walked his master’s son there every day.

Read and her students worked with the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell’s Point to clean, inventory, and catalog thousands of artifacts from test pits that were dug on the property. They also participated in direct restoration work, scraping wallpaper, patching plaster and applying paint primer.

Read said that the award is especially gratifying because the students volunteered their time for the project without the expectation or hope of outside recognition.

“We owe this honor to Esther Read, whose excavations have produced so much evidence for the life of people of the past in the Baltimore and Chesapeake regions,” said Marilyn Goldberg, chair of ancient studies. “She has consistently educated and mentored our students in the study and practice of field archaeology.”

The Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell's Point was named a Preserve America Steward thanks to the work on the project. The award is given by the federal government’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for exemplary recruitment and use of volunteers and is signed by Michelle Obama. Since the program began in 2009, an average of seven awards has been given out nationwide each year.

Volunteers from the Fell’s Point Residents Association, which has contributed thousands of dollars for the renovation of Society properties, will also be recognized at the awards ceremony. A highlight of the event will be the installation of a time capsule in a wall of the Aliceanna St. property; attendees will be invited to write down whatever is on their minds that day to be read by others 100 years from now. Also on display will be what archaeologists believe to be a Yoruba divination bundle, which was found by the students among the artifacts, and a cosmogram retrieved from a test pit.

In addition to their work on the structure, the students serve an educational role in the society by acting as archaeology docents. The students performing their work in a public setting in the Fell's Point Visitor Center and discuss the area’s history with visitors.

The ceremony will take place at 6 p.m at the Leeke Academy, 1627 Aliceanna Street in Fell's Point and will include a news conference, awards ceremony and behind the scenes tour of the newly restored 18th century wooden building.

Posted by chelseah at April 29, 2011 11:48 AM