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Lee Capristo
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Email: lwcapristo@smcm.edu
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St. John's Site: A Living Museum

Written by Kathleen Bender '09, anthropology major

St. Mary's College is dedicated to being a "living legacy" of the ideals held by the first Marylanders. Therefore, it is supremely fitting that students got to excavate archaeological remains - and then help create - the St. John's Museum Site right in the middle of campus. St. John's served as one of the earliest meeting places for the Maryland general assembly.

The College, in conjunction with Historic St. Mary's City, has one of the oldest archaeological field schools in the country; its first excavation, conducted between 1974 and 1976, was St. John's. And today, students and the general public continue to use the museum as an educational tool.

Museums usually go off to gather artifacts from dig sites to use in their exhibits. At St. John's, the entire excavated site is on display, along with many associated artifacts. Text panels and spotlights are used to describe the process of archaeology and how we know what we know. There are panels that provide information about the owners of St. John's and the important events that took place there, and panels that describe the day-to-day life of the wealthy, as well as the servants. Interactive exhibits, such as computer games and 3D wooden puzzles, are an integral part.

College students from anthropology, history and museum studies classes use the museum as a resource.
For example, as part of my St. Mary's Project, I created a questionnaire to analyze visitor use. Preliminary results from the survey administered between December 2008 and April 2009 show an overwhelmingly positive response. Senior Bonnie McCubbin agreed the interactive components were helpful and she enjoyed the overall ambiance of the museum. "I really felt like I was in a different world when I walked out of there."

St. John's, near the Admissions building, is the first climate-controlled exhibit at Historic St. Mary's City and is open to the public year-round. See www.stmaryscity.org for details.