September 18, 2018

Goucher History Project

Dear Goucher Community,

Goucher has long been interested in its history. In the 1970s, former Goucher professor R. Kent Lancaster and alumna Susan M. Cook began in-depth research on the history of the Towson campus land, originally 421 acres purchased in 1921. Since 2011, Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) and Assistant Professor Tina Sheller ’74 in the Historic Preservation Program have collaborated on an in-depth, evidence-based research project to learn more. Students working with Tina Sheller are doing everything from digging for artifacts on our campus grounds and clearing the old Lime Kiln to transcribing the records of the Chew Family that detail the daily operations of Epsom. Two faculty and two students recently interned at Hampton to study the history of slavery there. The most recent Epsom class (May 2018) presented an overview of the lives of enslaved and free workers at Epsom. This presentation included an analysis of the nature of slavery and the enslaved population as well as brief narratives on several enslaved people during a well-attended community program.

I am asking James F. Dator, assistant professor of history and director of Africana Studies at Goucher, to convene a group of faculty, staff, alumnae/i, trustees, and students (see below) to study Goucher’s history as it relates to race, slavery, and the land we now occupy. The goal will be to continue the historical research and assemble documents and evidence, and to find ways to generate further dialogue about what it means to inherit and live with this history. Indeed, we need to illustrate to all members of our community, particularly our black community members whose ancestors were enslaved, that we take this seriously as an institution. The convened group will be asked to add this data and information to our website and to have it inform our narratives about Goucher.

The library has been supporting research here with a number of endowed funds, especially the Brooke and Carol Peirce Center, created in 2009 to encourage undergraduate original research. The Peirce Center has supported six student research fellowships for the Epsom Project. In 2016, the Friends of the Library donated $3,000 to have the handwritten manuscripts of Henry B. Chew (the former owner of Epsom) held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) digitized in order for Goucher students to directly work with hundreds of written records detailing life at Epsom. Because these records are property of the HSP, Goucher may not make them openly available on our website, but the HSP has put them in its digital library. Tina Sheller, along with historic preservation students, has been focusing on the transcription and interpretation of these records, and once we have permission from the HSP, we plan to publish the transcriptions on our Epsom Project website.*

The SC&A in the Goucher Library provides access to these histories and documents through two websites:

  1. Epsom Project at Goucher College is an SC&A website, documenting the history of the campus land from the late 18th century. This ongoing project includes student, staff, and faculty work and links to artifacts and original primary source digital facsimiles.
  2. Goucher College Digital Library includes hi-res digital images of artifacts and documents related to Goucher’s 1921 purchase of the Epsom property from the Chew Family, including the original deed.

This has been an incredibly meaningful project for all involved, both for the hands-on historical work and for the opportunities to look more deeply into Goucher’s history in Towson and what it means to be on this land. This has been excellent and important collaborative work and now it is time to go further.

The appointed members represent a range of disciplines and perspectives and bring an enormous amount of expertise to these matters:

Linda Barone, Associate Director of Planning, Design & Construction
Micah Connor ’16, Maryland Historical Society
James F. Dator, Assistant Professor of History and Director of Africana Studies
Evan Dawley, Assistant Professor of History
Mel Lewis, Associate Professor of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Director of the Center for Geographies of Justice
Nicole J. Johnson, Interim Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Center for Race, Equity, and Identity
Tara Olivero, Curator of Special Collections & Archives
Tina Hirsch Sheller ’74, Assistant Professor of History and Historic Preservation
Marilyn Southard Warshawsky ’68, Trustee Emerita and Author of John Franklin Goucher: Citizen of The World (2016)

To this group, we will add an equal number of students. A process for naming these students will be set up by students.

If you are interested in learning more or want to join the group, please email James Dator. The group will report publicly on their progress.

Best,

José

*You can view the three complete digitized manuscripts on the HSP’s website:
Journal and Farm Expenses Account Book, 1831-1833
Memoranda of Field Work on Epsom, 1934
Memorial Journal on Death of Harriet [Ridgely] Chew, 1835-1837