Stevenson University and Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources have teamed up to create an exciting new learning opportunity for Stevenson’s Public History and Science majors. Applying innovative research techniques developed by the University’s Public History Program, Stevenson undergrads are undertaking a one-year study of a historic property administered by the Department of Natural Resources’ Curatorship Program. The project will document the history of the property’s natural and built environment as well as the role the property played in human history. The project, entitled History in Deed: A Biography of Place, engages Stevenson undergraduate students in hands on learning as they conduct archival research, environmental inventories, preservation history, and a comprehensive property surface survey at Baxter Farm in Frederick County, Maryland.

Across North America, thousands of historic properties have found their way into the hands of state and local governments. Each of those properties has a backstory that helps illustrate that property’s historical significance to the community and society. That significance is usually couched within the context of the surrounding landscape and built environment. Much of that backstory–gathered by historic preservation specialists–exists as part of the documentation used to justify a property’s historic status. Faced with the ownership of hundreds of historic properties, and tens of thousands of pages of out of date and sometimes incomplete documentation, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has partnered with the Stevenson University Public History Program to begin updating and gathering new research to further our understanding of state owned historic properties. In addition to research, the undergraduates will be assessing the property’s value as a tool for interpretation. These important resources tell us about the evolution of the local community and landscape over time as well as what that property says about “us.” In response to this partnership Stevenson University began developing its concept of a “biography of place.”

If found viable and effective, the effort may expand from a single pilot project to a multi-year effort to learn more about the cultural heritage contained within Maryland’s State Parks and public lands.