About the Epsom Project

About the Project
The Epsom Project at Goucher College is a collaborative research project between the Historic Preservation Program and Special Collections and Archives. This is an active and ongoing project in which historic preservation students enrolled in Assistant Professor Tina Sheller’s course HP 213 Historical Archaeology and Material Culture, identify, catalog, and research original primary sources related to the history of the land upon which Goucher is now located. Beginning in 2012, an investigation began on the 600-acre farm that operated on the land and was owned by members of both the Ridgely and Chew families from the late eighteenth until the early twentieth centuries.

Utilizing artifacts uncovered near the site of the original farm buildings, documents from the college archives, and digitized manuscripts from the Chew Family Papers housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, student researchers engage in the process of uncovering the history of the farm, its owners, and the many workers, both enslaved and free, who cultivated the land, cared for the livestock, and tended to household duties which were essential to the farm economy. At the end of the semester, students share their research findings by installing an exhibit and hosting a public presentation in the library.

Henry Banning Chew Manuscripts on display in the Goucher College Special Collections and Archives. Spring 2012

The Special Collections and Archives houses the Epsom artifacts as part of the college archives and provides space and equipment for the project. The Epsom Project is supported by the Brooke and Carol Peirce Center for Undergraduate Research and additional library endowed funds including the Sally Barnes Archives Fund, the Smith-History Fund, and the Class of ’60 Dorsey Memorial Fund.

Epsom Project Faculty and Staff Directors
  • Tina H. Sheller, Assistant Professor of History and Historic Preservation
  • Tara Olivero, Curator, Special Collections and Archives
  • Debbie Harner, Public Services and Education Archivist
  • Melissa Straw, Director of Conservation and Preservation
  • Kristen Welzenbach, Digital Initiatives Librarian

  • Contact Information
  • Tina H. Sheller, Assistant Professor of History, tina.sheller@goucher.edu, 410-337-3016
  • Kristen Welzenbach, Curator, Special Collections and Archives, kristen.welzenbach@goucher.edu, 410-337-6370

  • Website Development

    Art Direction, Design, and Development created by Matt Wolff '14.

    Project Background

    The discovery of additional artifacts on the Goucher campus and their donation to Special Collections and Archives in 2011 stimulated a new generation of Goucher faculty and students to explore the history of Epsom Farm. Encouraged by College Librarian, Nancy Magnuson, and Special Collections and Archives Curator, Tara Olivero, Professor Sheller resumed the quest to uncover the history of Epsom Farm.

    The Project was conceived and organized by Tina Sheller, assistant professor of History and coordinator of the Historic Preservation program. It was based on the work of an earlier generation of Goucher scholars, Professor R. Kent Lancaster and his student, Susan Cook (Lang), who, in 1977, began the process of recovering the history of Epsom Farm. Lancaster and Cook pieced together the history of the farm through careful research in land records, estate inventories, manuscript collections, old maps, Baltimore County records, tax records, and the Goucher College archives; through interviews with Chew family descendants; and through a close study of extant artifacts and farm structures found on the Goucher College grounds. They presented their findings in a report entitled Epsom Baltimore County which was prepared as part of an “Inventory Form for State Historic Sites Survey” and deposited with the Maryland Historical Trust in 1978.

    Project Chronology

    In the fall of 2011, Professor Sheller recruited two Goucher students, who were Historic Preservation minors, to begin working on the Epsom Project. Jackson Gilman-Forlini ’12 and Bryce Carson ’13 began researching the history of Epsom as Independent Study projects. Bryce’s research focused on recovering the physical landscape of the farm while Jackson learned the history of the Chew family by studying the original manuscripts of Chew Papers held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Among his major discoveries was an 1855 inventory of the contents of the Epsom mansion and the Chew Family Bible, inscribed with the birth and death dates for all family members.

    Jackson and Bryce continued their research as undergraduate fellows with grants awarded by the Peirce Center for Undergraduate Research. Students in Professor Sheller’s spring 2012 class, HP 213, Historical Archaeology and Material Culture, also became involved with the Epsom Project. Professor Sheller challenged the class, together with Bryce and Jackson, to bring Epsom Farm back to life, to recover the lost world of the nineteenth-century farm that occupied Goucher’s land. The students, under the guidance of Special Collections and Archives curator Tara Olivero, created the exhibit Recovering a Lost World: Epsom Farm, 1772-1921 which opened to the public on May 1, 2012. View some of the artifacts and panels on display in the exhibit.