Caption: Pages from the Washington City Bible Society census of 1847.
Over the next year, Stevenson University history students will study the historic plight of the urban poor and its relevance to our community today. With the support of a $10,000 grant from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), Stevenson's undergraduate researchers will examine the lives of the homeless, the poor, and recent immigrants living in the City of Washington in 1847. A primary source of information will be a 48-page notebook containing handwritten records from a Bible census undertaken by the Washington City Bible Society. A single agent of the Society visited all 6,000 families living in the city at the time and made a record of those who did not own a Bible or a New Testament. The record included their names, location in the city, religion, race, number of children, and other key pieces of information. While created for a religious purpose at the time, today that record presents a slice of Washington City's society frozen in time in 1847. Using historical research methods and tools, Stevenson's undergraduate researchers will breathe a new life into that cold record by researching their lives, their times, and creating maps of their locations in the city. The researchers will compare their results to similar populations in the Chesapeake region today as a way of developing their narrative.
Caption: Logo of the Council of Independent Colleges
Funded by the Council of Independent Colleges, Stevenson's effort is part of a CIC initiative entitled: "Humanities Research for the Public Good." Meant to highlight the importance to the community of research in the humanities, this effort "demonstrates the power of the humanities to shed light on the past, to offer new insights on current issues, and to engage both students and members of the public in contemplating a better future. By making visible the significant collections contained in college archives, libraries, and museums, the project aims to show how these raw materials of humanities research can address the concerns and experiences of local communities." (CIC, 2018) Stevenson's project, entitled: Frozen in Time: A Survey of Washington City's Indigent from 1847, was one of 25 proposals selected for funding by CIC. Stevenson is partnering with the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. in the effort as well as the Maryland Bible Society.
Caption: Stevenson history students are familiar with archival research. Here they engage in research at the Baltimore City Archives.
Planned project outcomes include a final report,a traveling exhibit, collateral materials, and educational programs both in Washington, DC and Baltimore in the summer and fall of 2020.