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Public History News

Date: May 2020

Photo of Todd's Inheritance house in Edgemere, Maryland.

Earlier this semester, before COVID 19 prevented us all from gathering together to engage in service learning, our history majors engaged in a service project at Todd's Inheritance....

On Sunday, February 9th, members of Stevenson's history major visited one of Maryland's cultural jewels, the Fire Museum of Maryland.


History Majors standing in front of fire apparatus.
CAPTION: History majors Harrison Oliver, Jack Seals, Steff Sommers, Mike van der Vossen, and Alex Reed learned a lot, ate some good food, and learned lessons that would unexpectedly serve them well in just a short time on their Sunday afternoon trip to the Fire Museum.

Catered by Towson Delly North, the lively program commemorated the 116th anniversary of the Great Baltimore Fire and the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote.  Speakers included historian Wayne Schaumburg and Baltimore County Fire Chief Joanne Rund.

Joanne Rund being sworn in as Baltimore County Fire Chief

Caption:  Joanne Rund being sworn in as Baltimore County Fire Chief.

Chief Rund addressed the problems women have faced over the last fifty years while trying to attain equality with men in the work place, especially in historically male dominated occupations like firefighting.  Of greater importance, and of a more buoying nature, were her comments regarding how problems within the field have been addressed in the past and continue to be addressed today.  The greatest example of her talk was the fact that she is now Baltimore County's Fire Chief, a position few thought a woman could ever attain a generation ago.

Black and White photo of Baltimore burned out as a result of the Great Fire of 1904.

Caption: Over 1500 buildings and 80 blocks of the city were destroyed by the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904..

Wayne Schaumburg did a masterful job of captivating his audience as he told the story of the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.  While many in his audience were aware of the fire in general, his masterful command of the facts of that disaster as well as the lessons learned were compelling.  Few of us, even the historians in the audience, were aware of how fast Baltimore snapped back to life in the wake of the fire.  The resilience of the community, the commitment of its wealthiest citizens, and the "can do" attitude of its commercial sector were truly amazing to hear about.

COVID 19 data chart for the State of Maryland

Caption: A chart showing statistics of Maryland's crisis-level engagement with COVID 19 in spring 2020.

On that Sunday afternoon in February, none of us could have predicted the current crisis both Baltimore and our nation are undergoing as a result of COVID 19.  The same bravery Baltimore's residents saw in its first responders in 1904 we see today.  The same destruction of local businesses and widespread unemployment as in 1904 we see today.  Similarly, we see the same commitment by our local business people to ensuring businesses re-emerge from the crisis and that unemployment is addressed in the strongest terms possible.  Little did our majors realize how the past would serve as a valuable precursor for today.

Our majors learned that knowing our history provides perspective, having perspective provides hope, and with hope we can survive almost anything. 

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