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New display of Washington County artifacts opens

June 15, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Relics recovered during archaeological digs in Washington County were put on display Wednesday at the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau in downtown Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Arrowheads, bullet molds and musket balls recovered during archaeological digs in Washington County were among the artifacts officials put on display Wednesday in downtown Hagerstown.

Mary Alexander, administrator of the Museum Historical Trust Museum Assistance Program, said the items were unearthed in Washington County a long time ago and later stored by the state with about 8 million other artifacts for several decades.

A few years ago, officials decided to release some of the historical pieces for public display.

“Our idea is to get some of these 8 million items back to the counties where they came from,” Alexander said after the display was opened Wednesday afternoon at the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 16 Public Square.

The items include plates and pottery that were recovered at the site of a 19th-century home near Cearfoss; 2,000-year-old Native American arrowheads and tools that were recovered near Mount Aetna; and 18th-century military items that were recovered at Fort Frederick near Big Pool.

Alexander said the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory — a Calvert County-based clearinghouse for archaeological collections recovered from land-based and underwater projects throughout Maryland — received a $30,000 federal grant last year to place displays in St. Mary’s and Washington counties.

She said officials chose St. Mary’s County because of its proximity to the laboratory. Washington County was chosen because it’s in the western part of the state.

Program officials would like to secure enough federal funding to place artifacts on display in about half of Maryland’s 23 counties within the next five years, Alexander said.

“We’re not exactly sure where we’re going, but we’re committed to do this over time,” she said.

The Washington County artifacts will be displayed for three months each at the convention and visitors bureau, the Newcomer House at Antietam National Battlefield, the University System of Maryland-Hagerstown and the Williamsport Town Museum. After a year, the items will be returned to the laboratory, Alexander said.

Becky Morehouse, state curator for the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, said the artifacts from the Cearfoss and Mt. Aetna sites were excavated in the 1990s. The Fort Frederick excavations were carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

The artifacts will not only help residents step into the past, but those who visit the county, said Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He said the venues where the artifacts will be displayed are visited by more than 2 million people per year.

“Tourism is all about history,” Riford said. “We have a lot of wonderful historical sites.”

The project is being supported by the Maryland Historical Trust, the Washington County Historical Society, the convention and visitors bureau and the Archaeological Society of Maryland.

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