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Black history museum reopens

July 18, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The Doleman Black History Museum has reopened to the public after a hiatus following the death of museum founder Marguerite Doleman.

She may be gone, but her legacy lives on at her Locust Street home that houses Washington County's black history museum.

The walls in the dining room are lined with wallpaper depicting scenes of slave plantation life, said Doleman's son, Charles "Sonny" Doleman.

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"The wallpaper was here when we moved in," he said. "It's like this house was meant for my family."

Doleman said his mother spent 28 years collecting historical artifacts and information on the cultural experiences and contributions of blacks in Washington County. Doleman said the museum originated in 1972 with a two-week black history display in the basement of the family's home.

"Some former students from North Hagerstown High School asked my mom to organize a black history display," Doleman said. "She never took it down, and it mushroomed throughout the whole house."

"And I never got my room in the basement back," he said, laughing.

Doleman said his mother had a passion for history for as long as he can remember. She often dressed in period clothing to do history presentations at local schools.

"Mom was a pack rack," Doleman said. "She collected a little bit of everything. She collected obituaries, she collected freedom quilts made when slaves got their freedom."

Following a long illness, Marguerite Doleman was 78 when she died in November 2000, two weeks shy of her 80th birthday. Three years later her husband, Charles Doleman, died at the age of 88.

Now their two children, Sonny and Rosemary Doleman Lucas, manage the museum. Since Marguerite Doleman's death, the museum's displays have been untouched, and Doleman said he and his sister have decided to resume showing the house to the public by appointment only.

Doug Bast, director of the Boonsborough Museum of History, said area historical organizations are willing to assist the Doleman family in any future endeavors to preserve the museum.

"It's not many cases that you find a lady who is willing to set up a museum in her house," Bast said.

Bast, who collaborated on various projects with Marguerite Doleman when she was alive, said her passion for raising cultural awareness is a priceless gift that can educate Washington County residents for years to come.

"She was very dedicated and she felt that it was something that should be carried on," he said.

Sonny Doleman said he's met with Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, whose office has expressed an interest in exploring ways the state could support the museum.

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