January 25, 2010
‘On the Road’ takes a look at early Maryland transportation
Student-curated focus exhibition opens at Homewood Museum
Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Museum will open its fourth annual student-curated focus show, On the Road: Travel and Transportation in Early Maryland, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28 (snow date: Feb. 4).
On view through Wednesday, March 31, the exhibition explores how Marylanders traveled from 1775 through to the laying of the cornerstone of the B&O Railroad in 1828. An accompanying display on the main level of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library features 15 objects drawn from the Sheridan Libraries’ rare books and manuscripts collection, and related events have been planned during the show’s run (see sidebar).
The Carroll family who lived in what is now Homewood Museum witnessed the rise of Baltimore as a leading center of mercantile and cultural activity during a time that saw major technological advances in transportation, from the first U.S. balloon launch in June 1784 to the first highway financed by federal funds—the National Road, begun in 1806—both in Maryland.
From foot, horse and sail power to the introduction of steamboats, canals and railways, this student-curated focus show explores how people and goods traveled at the turn of the 19th century, highlighting the development of the network of roads, bridges, steamships, railroads and public transportation facilities linking Baltimore to Washington, Philadelphia, New York and more distant points north, west and south.
On the Road is the culmination of the undergraduate seminar Introduction to Material Culture, taught during the fall 2009 semester by Homewood director and curator Catherine Rogers Arthur. The 10 students in the class met weekly in the museum’s wine cellar to discuss their research findings and exhibition planning, in addition to assisting museum staff with exhibition marketing and working closely with the Sheridan Libraries’ curator of early books and manuscripts, Earle Havens.
Acting as curators, the students spent the term researching period sources such as newspaper ads, maps and probate inventories, and examining surviving objects, including a traveling liquor cabinet ca. 1815 marked by Baltimore pewterer Samuel Kilbourn, a portable desk ca. 1800 with a Carroll family provenance, a gentleman’s pocketbook ca. 1802 made for Baltimore merchant Elisha Rogers and hand-colored engravings of carriage designs ca. 1802 published by Pierre de La Mésangère.
“I never imagined I’d be so involved in a class,” said senior economics major Andrew Kase. “Reading through 200-year-old newspapers and gathering primary source evidence has been fascinating.”
“Our research revealed a number of interesting finds about travel and transportation at the turn of the 19th century, including tales of highway robberies and drunken wagon riding,” said senior history/history of art double major Max Spiegel, also a well-published numismatist. “This exhibition shows how, even after so many years, we can relate to the experiences of early travelers.”
The accompanying display in the MSE Library features objects selected by the students from the Sheridan Libraries’ rare books and manuscript collections, including a recently acquired manuscript travel diary of 1818 detailing the trip of a young man from Wilmington, Del., to Baltimore, an extremely rare broadside illustrating a new method of constructing wagon wheels and various early American guidebooks and travelogues.
The material culture seminar is part of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Museums and Society Program, an interdisciplinary course minor that helps undergraduates establish meaningful connections with local and regional museums.
The exhibition was funded through a contribution to Homewood by the late Anne Merrick Pinkard that also makes it possible for the seminar in material culture to be repeated in successive years, with different topics contributing to an ongoing understanding of early-19th-century life at Homewood.
On the Road is on view to visitors during regular guided tours of Homewood Museum, offered every half hour from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from noon to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The exhibition is free with museum admission: $6 adults; $5 seniors; $3 students, Johns Hopkins alumni and retirees, and children over 5; free for museum members and Johns Hopkins faculty, staff and students with ID. The related MSE Library display is on view 24/7 during the academic year.
‘On the Road: Travel and Transportation in Early Maryland’
Sunday, Feb. 7,
12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Imagine yourself on the road in the 1800s, in need of refreshment, conversation and entertainment. Join early American music performer David Hildebrand in Homewood Museum’s wine cellar to sing spirited tunes, play tavern games, read historical newspapers and maps, and sample traditional beverages and snacks. Free with museum admission. Reservations requested: 410-516-5589 or email@example.com.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides
Sunday, Feb. 14. Rides leave every 20 minutes from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Take your family, friends or Valentine’s Day sweetheart on a trip back in time with a horse-drawn carriage tour on the Homewood campus. Group ride: $10 adults, $5 children (ages 2 to 11). Private ride: $50 for a six-person carriage. Price includes museum admission. Timed reservations requested: 410-516-5589 or homewoodmuseum@jhu .edu.
On the Road Speaker Series
Thursdays, Feb. 18 and 25, March 4 and 11, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Talks are held in the museum’s entry hall, followed by a reception in the wine cellar. Individual talks: $10, $7 members, free for full-time students with valid ID. Due to limited seating, advance registration is required: 410-516-5589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb. 18: David Shackelford, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, “Sails and Trails: Getting Around Maryland in the Federal Period.”
Feb. 25: Abby Burch, Ohio State University, “The Grand Old Ditch: The C&O in American Transportation History.”
March 4: Earle Havens, Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries, “Phaetons, Chaises, Ferries and Sloops: Print Culture and the Curiosities of American Travel and Transport.”
March 11: David Schley, Johns Hopkins University, “Changing the Means and Meanings of Travel: The Early Railroad in Maryland.”