By Tricia Herban
Discover London Town! is the name of a 3,500-square-foot permanent
museum at Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater Maryland. A
joint partnership between London Town Foundation, Lost Towns Project and Anne Arundel County among others, this project has been 10 years in the making—and worth the wait.
Located in the visitors center, a space thoughtfully constructed mainly underground so as not to interrupt the original landscape of the area, this exhibit presents 13,000 years of regional history, using archaeology, artifacts, maps, artistic paintings and period illustrations, as well as interactive displays including a virtual 3D colonial tavern and illustrations of trans-Atlantic ship voyages. Many of the objects displayed were uncovered over two decades by Dr. Al Luckenbach and his team of Lost Towns project archaeologists.
Earliest objects on display include one of the finest collections of locally made tools from the Archaic Period (9,500-3000 BC) including spear points axes, celts and grinding stones. Such items are further illustrated through reproductions of prints showing Indians hunting, fishing and camping by 16th century explorer John White.
The chronological exposition continues, presenting Emmanuel Drue, a 17th century craftsman who made clay tobacco pipes for the first European settlement of Providence. His cobblestone kiln and handiwork are on display and further explained by a 3D movie. A variety of Providence artifacts presented include Delft ceramics, bone-handled utensils, iron scissors, lock and key and so forth.
Another section portrays Colonial transportation, shipping and transatlantic trade. Herman Moll’s 1710 world map is used to highlight the global trading network by means of directional lights which illuminate the map from behind. At the same time that a route is lit, adjacent boxes showing the related trade goods light up as well. From there, one can, figuratively speaking, board the Rumney and Long, a transatlantic ship captained by London Town resident, William Strachan. Again, modern technology enables the visitor to explore the ship, fire cannons, climb the rigging and more. A “sound dome” enhances the experience with period music played by David and Ginger Hildebrand, as well as the waterfront sounds of waves, creaking wood and birds.
Moving on, London Town is next in the exhibition—portraying its creation, flowering and decline. Period documents present the act of the Maryland General Assembly which created the community among 31 other towns as well as the will which donated land for the village. The buildings of London Town have been discovered through research and a time lapse movie shows the reconstruction of the Lord Mayor’s Tenement, a 20-foot-square post-in-ground building. Overland travel was dangerous and difficult, but the ferry stop at London Town was key to the area’s prosperity and the impetus for construction of the William Brown House circa 1760. In the carpenter shop, visitors learn about the trade and the indentured servants and tradesmen who practiced it. Period woodworking tools displayed include a hand brace and bit, a cooper howel for planing the inside of uneven barrel staves, and hoop drivers that were used to hammer on the wooden hoops.
Slavery was a fact of life in the Chesapeake and a combination of videos and objects illuminate the experiences, customs and cultural traditions of African and Caribbean slaves in the 18th century. In fact, a young child was found buried beneath the floorboards of the carpenter shop.
Possibly best known for its outstanding woodland garden, London Town
continues to address that vital subject in a section of the museum on horticulture. Dr. Richard Hill is presented as an exponent of botanical exploration and a participant in the exchange of plants between the Old and New World. This London Town resident corresponded with the Royal Society of London, providing information about the
local area as well as artistic renderings of plants he found. His plant-based health remedies were of interest to many.
Through brilliantly conceived exhibits, Discover London Town! offers the visitor a fascinating window into the past. Artifacts from the site ground the discussion specifically in time and place, allowing this former river port a second life through our contemporary understanding of its role in Colonial history.
Location: 839 Londontown Road, Edgewater, MD
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 4:30 p.m. Closed
to the public: Mondays, Tuesdays, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and
Fee: Members free, ages 7 and up, $5
Gift Shop: A small gift shop is next to the museum.
Food: There is no food service on the property although the site can
be rented for catered events. Nearby food on Mayo Road includes
Carlson’s Kitchen, Adam’s Ribs and Saigon Palace.
Contact: 410.222.1919 or [email protected]
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