Last week proved to be a busy one! I started out with a visit to the Navy Yard to talk with the new Branching Out Field Team. Their first project of the summer was to plant the Commandant’s House garden, so I helped introduce the project and told them about my involvement with Branching Out and the redesign project. After my presentation on Monday, I left for Maryland (my home state) to meet up with Daisy, Jen, and Eliot. It was so much fun to be able to travel home for work, see my family, eat Maryland food (crabs crabs crabs), and also dive into some research about a cultural landscape so close to my hometown.
Daisy and Jen are working on a Cultural Landscape Report for the Jacob Jackson Home Site, part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Dorchester County, MD. We started out in College Park doing some research at the National Archives. There I found some statistical conditions reports of the oystering, crabbing, and fishing industries in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. At that time, the oystering business was declining due to extreme winter weather preventing oysters from thriving in the Dorchester County area. Daisy had mentioned this happening when she was introducing me to the history of the site, so I was excited to find detailed reports on it. While at the Maryland Archives in Annapolis the following day, our most exciting find was a book of property ownership for Dorchester County, where we could find names of people associated with the site (Jacob Jackson, Vincent Greene, some of the Tall family), along with a laundry list of their belongings and estimated value of those belongings.
Once in Dorchester County, we did lots of driving around the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses about 30,000 acres of land. Within that land is the Jacob Jackson Home Site (about 480 acres), and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center.
I am so happy I was able to tag along on this trip and help out with some preliminary mapping for the site! Despite having been to Cambridge/the Eastern Shore many many times, I was unaware of the rich history it holds. What was so intriguing to me is the numerous parallels that have been drawn throughout time, from Harriet Tubman’s era to Gloria Richardson’s efforts in favor of Civil Rights from mid-century on to today.
After returning from Maryland, I had another teachback with Branching Out once they had finished planting the Commandant’s garden. They did such a lovely job! I was thrilled to see my design in person, and honored to have influenced such an important and highly visited historic landscape in Boston. My very favorite part about this project, besides seeing my design go from screen to paper to dirt, was having the opportunity to be directly involved in the entire process from beginning to end. I also enjoyed collaborating with professionals from whom I learned so much (thanks OCLP and National Parks of Boston friends!), as well as being able to share my knowledge of cultural landscapes, history, and design with the Branching Out team who was fairly new to the field of landscape design. I hope to be able to work on similar projects in the future!