17 November 2008

Anne Arundel County Courthouse: Part III

Here is another really interesting artifact found at the courthouse site:

This is an 1896 presidential campaign button for the Republican candidate, William McKinley. As we mentioned before the courthouse block was occupied predominantly by African Americans through the middle of the 20th century. The Republican Party was in support of Emancipation and was therefore the political party of choice for African Americans during this time period. This button serves as a reminder that African Americans were politically active, having just received the right to vote in 1870 with the ratification of the 15th Amendment.

The McKinley election was actually the first time celluloid was used for campaign buttons. Celluloid buttons became very popular and are still commonly used today. Unfortunately, this material decomposes easily and therefore buttons like these are very rare to find during archaeological excavations.

Archaeology in Annapolis is currently working with the Historic Annapolis Foundation to create a small exhibit at the Anne Arundel County Courthouse on Church Circle in Annapolis. The exhbit will feature artifacts from excavations on the courthouse block and should be installed in the the coming year. We'll keep you posted on progress!

14 November 2008

Archaeology on Vacation

Working as a museum educator requires me to become very knowledgeable on whatever topic the museum I work at focuses on. For instance, working at the National Building Museum years ago I learned more about city planning, bridge engineering, and geodesic domes (think Spaceship Earth aka the big golf ball shaped building at Epcot) than I ever thought I would. I still can't drive home to the midwest without looking at the different types of bridges along the way.
Last month I traveled around the Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Loire Valley regions of France and everywhere I went I ran across archaeological digs. One city I visited was Reims, the location of the signing of the Germany's surrender at the Allied headquarters at the end of World War II. Reims had a front row seat to history throughout the past century. After nearly being completely destroyed during WWI (85% of the buildings were gone) the city went on to serve as the home of the Allied Headquarters in France at the end of WWII and was the location of the signing of the ceasefire on 7 May 1945 bringing WWII in Europe to an end. A more widely known second signing was held one day later in Berlin.

While walking to the Musee de la Reddition, home of the former Allied headquarters, I came across an archaeological dig in progress on a main road in the city. This dig was part of pre-construction archaeology required by law. One of the things that I was very impressed with at this site as well as the one I came across in the Loire Valley was that each dig had signage explaining what was going on for anyone passing by. This took the form of the sign above in Reims.
Within the past 10 years, an intensive archaological study was conducted in Reims to trace the city's history back to the Roman times. The city has Roman ruins and archaologists have been able to successfully trace their findings as far back as two thousand years ago. The findings from this study are available by clicking here. Be aware the study is published in French, so you will need to translate the page if you don't read French.

When looking at the picture on the left you can see the stratigraphy (layering) of the ground. Evidence of roads and road construction from the past 100 years is on view for anyone passing by to view. Imagine what these roads have laid witness to especially given the few events I listed above. While I was at the Musee de la Reddition, I saw a film showing what the city of Reims looked like before and after its moment in history including events such as the V-E Day parades down the streets of the city, including this street. It was a great way for me to have some context as to what types of finds and materials the archaeologists might be looking for.

Coming soon: Archaeology in Angers, France -- The discovery of 5th century artifacts while building a city tramway

12 November 2008

Anne Arundel County Courthouse: Part II

Now for the long-awaited Part II of the Anne Arundel County Courthouse blog entry...

So, as I mentioned before, prior to the expansion of the courthouse the entire courthouse block in Annapolis was home to an ethnically diverse community. Pictured below are ceramic pipe bowls embossed with the words "Home Rule" which were found at the site:

These pipe bowls are likely connected to Irish immigrants who called the Courthouse block home. "Home Rule" refers to the demand made by the Irish "Home Rule League" for greater autonomy for Ireland within the British Empire during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The presence of these pipes show that even while living in the United States, Irish immigrants were still involved in the politics of their home country. In 1879, Charles Stewart Parnell, leader of the Irish Nationalist movement, visited the United States to raise money and support for the movement.

Check back later this week to learn about another interesting artifact found at the courthouse site!

02 November 2008

Rumney's Folly

I was just forwarded an announcement about a talk that will be given at Historic London Town and Gardens in December. The subject of the talk is Edward Rumney, Sr. who lived at London Town and is also connected to an archaeological site there. Here is the announcement:

"Rumney’s Folly
On Tuesday, December 2nd, at 7:00pm, Rod Cofield, Director of Interpretation and Museum Programs at Historic London Town and Gardens will present his latest research on London Town's Edward Rumney, Sr. Rod will discuss how Rumney, who had lived in Anne Arundel County since at least 1686, overextended himself in the 1710s due to his financial involvement in the ferrykeeping and innkeeping business. Once a respected man in the community, having served on juries and as a road overseer, Rumney saw the last few years of his life become debt-ridden and litigious. More people know about Rumney, Jr. (a known counterfeiter); now learn about his father. Admission is $5. London Town members and volunteers are free. Please RSVP at 410-222-1919."

Sounds like an interesting subject- Hope you can attend!

London Town is located in Edgewater, Maryland about a 20 minute drive from downtown Annapolis. For more on London Town visit their website: http://www.historiclondontown.org/