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Community Archaeology in Hampden



Project Members:

  Dave Gadsby

  Robert Chidester

  Paul Shackel





Hampden circa 1870


Courtesy of the Baltimore County

Public Libraries

Involving communities in the study of their own heritage is a growing trend in archaeology and heritage studies.  Increasingly, scholars understand that heritage is an important concept around which groups of people form and maintain communities.  It provides them with a source of group pride and a sense of being grounded in a place or series of historical events.  It can also help people to organize politically and ensure that their voice is heard in public processes such as civic planning and urban development. 

Hampden, in central Baltimore, is often called a working class neighborhood, but it is in reality a place undergoing rapid change.  Business is booming, as is the housing market, and the neighborhood’s traditional working class population is in some danger of being marginalized or forced out altogether. As archaeologists, we have made a conscious effort in Hampden to use our skills and knowledge to increase all community members’ awareness of the place’s heritage.  Our hope is to invigorate a public discourse about the community’s traditional character and changing nature and to give traditional Hampdenites another tool to advocate for themselves in the public arena. 

The project that we envision is one that incorporates facets of public history, archaeology, job training, public education, oral history and applied anthropology to help Hampden represent itself to through studies of its heritage.  We have already begun with a series of public history workshops and the creation of a research design for excavations in summer 2005.  That research design incorporates the input of community members based on the workshops. As the project progresses, we hope to continually refine our research through dialogue with the community.  Ultimately, we hope to engage the community to the extent that we will be able to start a community controlled non-profit organization devoted to interpreting Hampden’s past.

Click here to read the research design for the Hampden Community Archaeology Project "History from the 'Bottom up'" (pdf format)

Also read Oral Histories from residents of Hampden (originally recorded in 1978 through the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project) 

Recent News about the Hampden Archaeology Project...

"Digging for Meaning" by Alice Ockleshaw, Urbanite Magazine, December 2005, Issue 18

"Will yards yield clues to history?" by Howard Crise, Baltimore Messenger, June 30, 2005

To read more updates on the Hampden Community Archaeology Project follow along on the blog maintained by Dave Gadsby. 






Lithograph of Mount Vernon


Courtesy of the Baltimore County

Public Libraries

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