CCHA Workshops Focus on Learning, Equity, and Preparation for the Future

June 5, 2024

This year, the Chesapeake Crossroads Heritage Area has offered four workshops for our stakeholders to learn about key issues and best practices that will prepare us for a stronger future. Each was planned in response to requests arising from discussions in committee meetings.

The first was suggested by several small waterfront partner sites concerned about planning for sustainability in light of the effects of climate change. On January 31, CCHA hosted a webinar presentation by Anastasia Poulos, entitled “Climate Resiliency in the Chesapeake Crossroads Heritage Area.” Ms. Poulos is Archaeological Sites Planner for the Cultural Resources Section, Anne Arundel County Department of Planning and Zoning. In this webinar, we heard that Anne Arundel County, surrounded by more than 530 miles of shoreline, is vulnerable to increased flooding as a result of relative sea level rise (SLR). The County has conducted studies of SLR risk, collaborating with federal and state agencies, and is taking actions to increase resilience to coastal flooding, informing stakeholders and planners seeking to update risk assessments and formulate future actions to protect resources and minimize impacts. Ms. Poulos shared a number of resources for climate resiliency which are cited in an informative blogpost on the CCHA website.

The second workshop, entitled “Improving the Visitor Experience for Visitors with Physical Disabilities,” assembled speakers who have disabilities themselves to share powerful insights into working to make our heritage attractions more accessible for visitors with physical disabilities. This workshop took place on March 1 in the Bowen Theatre at Maryland Hall, and was requested by members of our Education Committee to revisit a topic first offered in January of 2019. The speakers included Ann Deschamps, Director at Mid-Atlantic ADA Center; Beth Ziebarth, Head Diversity Officer at the Smithsonian Institution; Meredith Peruzzi, Director at the National Deaf Life Museum at Gallaudet University; and Steven Hairsine, Specialist, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. Workshop participants learned best practices for meeting ADA standards as well as making visitors feel more comfortable while visiting our attractions and public programs. CCHA contractor Lisa Robbins coordinated all aspects of planning the workshop.

The third workshop was a panel discussion which arose from discussions in the CCHA African American Preservation Committee. panel discussion, led by author and scholar Chris Haley of the Maryland State Archives. The program was entitled, “Sticks and Stones: (De)humanizing Words? Considering the Language of Slavery, Race, and Marginalized Communities,” and took place on March 28, at the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center in Annapolis. The program was designed to look closely at the ways that language used by public history professionals and academic historians, and today’s communities, to describe current, past, past people, and atrocities, has changed. A panel of speakers will discuss, from both professional and personal perspectives, the complexities of describing the institution of slavery, the actions of its perpetrators, and slavery’s modern legacy to both scholastic and public audiences. Haley, who is Director of Research, Education and Outreach, and the Study of the Legacy of Slavery at the Maryland State Archives, gave a presentation on complex representations of race and language which he has noticed over his career as an actor, writer, and archivist, and nephew of renowned author Alex Haley. Other presentations were given by fellow panelists Maya Davis, Riversdale Museum Director; Joe Toolan, Chair of Annapolis Pride and Commissioner of the Maryland Commission on LGBTQIA+ Affairs; and Hannah Lane, Archivist at the Study of the Legacy of Slavery. Each shared insights about loaded words and language, especially terms considered offensive or dehumanizing that are found in historical records. Dr. Eric Elston, CCHA Board member and Director of Diversity and Development with Telegraph Creative, served as Moderator.

Finally, to assist with preparations for America’s Semiquincentennial, Dr. Marcie Taylor-Thoma offered a webinar entitled, “Planning for Civics in our 250 Celebrations,” on May 16. Dr. Thoma is Executive Director of the Maryland Council for Civic and History Education, and a CCHA Coordinating Council member, among other affiliations. She coordinated social studies instruction, curriculum, assessment, policy, and professional development programs for over twenty years at the Maryland State Department of Education in Baltimore. She taught secondary social studies in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland for ten years before her tenure in state education. She recently retired to the Maryland Council for Civic and History Education, where she coordinates history and civic programs such as the History Teacher of the Year, We the People…, the James Madison Legacy Program in Maryland, and international democracy programs in Russia and Armenia. She completed her doctoral studies at the College of Notre Dame in Maryland in 2008 in leadership and policy. Her research interests include studying the relationship between effective civic education policy and student learning in the United States and abroad. Dr. Thoma considers herself a strong advocate for social justice and serves as the Past-President of the Middle States Council for Social Studies. Her most recent project has been the editing and interpreting of the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards.

All four of the workshops were recorded and are available via links on the CCHA website, chesapeakecrossroads.

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