About Us

The SlackWater Center at St. Mary's College of Maryland dates to 1998. Created and developed by former Professor of English Andrea Hammer, SlackWater grew out of the Southern Maryland Documentation Project, an oral history project started by Hammer in 1984. Today, the Center is a consortium of students, faculty, and community members focused on documenting and interpreting the region's changing landscapes. While oral histories remain at the core of what the Center does, students also explore the region's landscapes through historical documents, images, literature, and scientific and environmental evidence. Some of this work is published in our print journal, SlackWater, and some of it is published here online.

The name, SlackWater, comes from a word used by watermen in the region to describe the stillness right before the tide changes. "Slackwater is when the tide is changing from one to another," fisherman Neal Robrecht told us--that moment of calm before the tide reverses course. 

The SlackWater Center aims to provide students at St. Mary's with meaningful research experiences that make full use of the College's historical and geographical location. The Center encourages cross-disciplinary collaboration and, most importantly, public outreach and debate. 

Our website banner is an image of the Thomas Johnson Bridge taken on the eve of its completion in 1977. This photograph represents an important moment in the region's late 20th-century history, capturing the beauty, optimism, and promise of an area that only recently had been one of the state's poorest jurisdictions.


Julia A. King, Project Director

As associate professor of anthropology at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Julie King has introduced her students to the southern Maryland tidewater through her classes in archaeology and anthropology.  

Erin Ryan, Researcher and Content Manager

Erin has worked for the SlackWater Center since graduating from the University of Maryland in 2010. A local, she grew up with her toes dipped in the St. Mary's River and knows her way around an oyster shell. When not conducting oral histories or research for the SlackWater Center, she's exploring the world beyond the Chesapeake's shores. 

Erin can be reached at: ebryan@smcm.edu


Many people have contributed to the development of the SlackWater Center website. Foremost among these is Andrea G. Hammer, who served as the Center's founding director and initiated plans for a web presence prior to her departure for Cornell University. A very generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supported the website's content development.

Hundreds of people have shared their stories and histories with us since 1984 and, while too numerous to list here, we value and treasure these documents and work hard to serve as stewards of what is an extraordinary oral history collection. We are also grateful to the United Committee for Afro-American Contributions and StoryCorps, organizations that allowed us to reproduce portions of oral histories in their collections here on this website.

At. St. Mary's College, Ashley Taylor and Lee Capristo, both with SMCM's Publications Office, designed the website, taking care to draw inspiration from the Center's journals. Stephanie Enoch, SMCM's web specialist, took the design and made it work with a multi-media platform, exhibiting endless patience with what we know must have seemed like endless questions.  

Katherine H. Ryner, librarian, archivist, and long-time SlackWater friend, assisted with locating images, documents, and oral histories. Few people know the region's resources like Kat does. Media Center specialists and digital technology gurus Andy Keiper and Dan Glidden assisted with the preparation of audiofiles and other digital media. Their enthusiasm for SlackWater buoyed our spirits when we found ourselves in troubled waters.

John P. Cook deserves special mention for his never-ending efforts to preserve southern Maryland history.

Keisha M. Reynolds, Assistant Vice President of External Relations, and Liisa Franzen, Director of Development and Campaigns, understood the significance of what the SlackWater Center aims to do, and their support set the ball in motion for developing new ways of learning old stories about Tidewater Maryland.  

The SlackWater Center

St. Mary’s College of Maryland, 1998-2013

Header image courtesy of The Calvert Marine Museum