One of very few extant and verified Underground Railroad safe houses in Maryland. Photo from Caroline County Historical Society. *Private residence, not open to the public.*

Webinar Recap: Considering Authenticity in Researching & Interpreting the Underground Railroad

09/11/2020
By Preservation Maryland

Given the illegal nature of its operations, sites of the Underground Railroad across the United States were often hidden and secret. That necessity now presents a challenge to preservationists dedicated to identifying, preserving, and interpreting these important histories where they happened. As part of our 2020 online Old Line State Summit offerings, Preservation Maryland brought together over 250 registrants and a panel of experts to discuss the topic.

Free On-Demand Recording: 

WATCH ON YOUTUBE

Speakers for this session include Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, author and historian, Heather Ersts, Outreach & Partnership Coordinator for the Maryland Department of Tourism Development, and Dennis A. Doster, Ph.D., Director of the M-NCPPC Black History Program. The goal of the session was to provide an overview of research resources and pitfalls related to uncovering difficult history of slavery and self-emancipation. Moreover, how can the state continue to respectfully market heritage tourism destinations associated with the Underground Railroad?

With accurate research and interpretation, Maryland hopes to continue to solidify itself as a destination for history seekers and heritage travelers. New and updated research for inclusion in the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program is a tool to ensure that authentic – often harrowing – stories are told.

The Network consists of rigorously researched and documented sites with connections to the Underground Railroad, and programs and facilities with research, educational or interpretive resources related to the Underground Railroad in addition to some financial support. Once included on the national Network to Freedom, sites can become eligible for funding from the National Park Service and can be marketed using the full-range of tools held by the Maryland Department of Tourism.

For many places that may be associated with the Underground Railroad, documentation and interpretation can be difficult, particularly when uncovering the complex and difficult stories of the enslaved but, as the panelists discussed, accurate research and interpretation are essential to telling the full story of Maryland’s complex history.

Continuing the Conversation: Based on the overwhelming interest in this webinar and great questions about specific research questions, Preservation Maryland is working with our partners to offer a follow-up webinar. This “201” webinar will bring in experts from the Maryland State Archives and a representative from the Network to Freedom. This webinar will hope to provide additional tools, resources, and advice for those looking to nominate sites to the Network to Freedom. Nominations are accepted in January and July each year. No date or time has been set. To be notified, please sign up for emails from Preservation Maryland.

SIGN UP FOR UPDATES HERE

MEET OUR SPEAKERS

Speakers for the session include Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, author of Bound for the Promised Land, an award-winning biography of Harriet Tubman, and who has written more than twenty successful Network to Freedom site nominations. Kate will help illuminate research resources and impart how sites can separate lore from fact from fiction. Heather Ersts of the Maryland Department of Tourism, who is working to strengthen the interpretation offerings at historic destinations that tell the authentic story of African American life, will highlight existing sites in the Network to Freedom that exemplify high-quality and authentic heritage tourism experiences, including new digital experiences. Dennis A. Doster, Ph.D., director of the M-NCPPC Black History Program gave a broader context to researching and interpreting African American history with best-practice examples from Prince George’s County, Maryland.

MORE RESOURCES

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NETWORK TO FREEDOM

WEB-BASED RESOURCES BY DR. KATE LARSON

UGRR HERITAGE TOURISM EXAMPLES

MORE PRESERVATION MARYLAND WEBINARS

Preservation Maryland

Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

Meet Our Team
Our Story Donate Press & Media Resources Contact Us Site by Younts Design Inc. © Preservation Maryland, 2020.