If you share my love of local history in western Maryland—especially African-American history—of public history and teaching, or of medieval English history, I hope you’ll find a trove of interesting stuff here. I’m going to be posting nuggets from my research, updates about my current projects, guest blogs by other historians, book recommendations, links to useful websites, and other resources for local historians and genealogists. In the near future, look for this blog to have cross-postings with the website of Tolson’s Chapel (a beautifully restored post-Civil War African-American church and school in Sharpsburg, Maryland), with the Hagerstown Convention and Visitors Bureau blog, and with other sites.
A few words about how this website came to be: About eight years ago, I was a medieval historian who took on a small American local history project, looking into the story of slavery at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church–Lappans, in Washington County, Maryland. I had no idea that this project would grow into a whole new research field for me, one that would change both my professional and my personal life. Now the African-American history of western Maryland is my main area of research, and it figures heavily in my teaching as well. My local history work is very much public history, too—for example, creating historical markers, and collaborating with local organizations that present the past to the public. I’m doing less academic publishing and looking for ways to bring my research to more general audiences. This website is part of that effort. The first substantive blog post here (following this one) presents some of the African-American history I uncovered at St. Mark’s.
This website is being launched at the end of summer 2018. I’ve spent the past summer working on two projects. One is my book on slavery in Washington County, which is still very much a work in progress. The working title is Slavery’s Ragged Edge: Living Enslaved in Washington County, Maryland. There are now four chapters in draft, with another six planned. As a college teacher, I have to focus on my students and my administrative obligations during the school year, but I’m still hoping to keep the momentum going.
Another summer project was a collaboration with one of my Hood College students. We’ve been working with Rose Hill Manor Children’s Museum in Frederick to research the enslaved community that lived at Rose Hill from the late eighteenth century through the Civil War. Throughout that period, the majority of people living and working at Rose Hill were enslaved African Americans. Many historic plantations that are open to the public don’t tell the story of slavery well (or at all). Rose Hill is trying to do more, in an ongoing effort that began in 2014. My student’s and my engagement with Rose Hill grew directly out of a course I taught last fall, called “Reinterpreting Plantations.” The syllabus for that course can be found in the Teaching Resources on this site. In the future, look for more posts about the Rose Hill project. And when you visit historic sites, think about whether and how they represent their African-American past.
Finally, a note on the website’s name. An antiquary (or antiquarian) is a person interested in the past, a sort of history-collector, or a collector of antiques. It’s an old-fashioned word, and in professionalhistorical circles it can be used with a kind of derogatory connotation—as in, “Well, if you just collect all that information without analyzing it, you’re merely an antiquarian, not a historian.” Obviously I’ve used the word because it makes a pun with my surname; less obviously I’ve used it as a little homage to my late Uncle Marty, whose antiques business was called Amtiques. But as a medievalist I’m also much indebted to the great antiquaries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who traveled around England collecting manuscripts, copying medieval texts, drawing old things—and thus creating many of the essential compendia and archives that modern scholars of the Middle Ages still use today. For me, “antiquary” is a word that evokes the passionate hunt for evidence and the careful preservation of the past.
It’s in that spirit that I’ll be sharing my historical work with you. Elsewhere on this site, you can find links to local press coverage of my research, a schedule of my upcoming public talks, info about (and links to) my published books and articles, and an assortment of other materials, both local and medieval. You can also use the “Contact” page to get in touch with me directly.