Last Friday I had the privilege of meeting with several long-time members of the Sandy Spring community to interview them to find stories for the remake of our exhibit. Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to meet with me! I am looking forward to processing all of the incredible stories with my teammates and thinking about how to incorporate them into an exhibit. I conducted the interviews in the Sandy Spring museum library, while my teammates were doing additional research. A few highlights:
Since the exhibit that we are re-making features the post office and general store, I set up an interview with the retired postmaster. I learned that postmaster is a political appointee, as well as a lot of other information about post offices. He helped us go back into the museum’s collection and find the original post office boxes from the Sandy Spring post office. Apparently some artifacts from the Sandy Spring post office are actually now housed at the Smithsonian—which means we’re unlikely to get them back! Post office parts can apparently be very valuable.
Since we are focusing on the theme of gathering places (such as the post office) and being part of a community, I asked several long time community members, “What does it mean to be from Sandy Spring?” It turns out that to many, Sandy Spring is not a place, but rather a “state of mind” which is rooted in Quaker values. Many older residents feel a strong sense of connection to the community, from growing up when you could go to the grocery store and know everyone you saw. They noted that in the 1970s or so, with a huge growth in suburban development, that changed. Many older residents still organize educational clubs at private homes and are active with organizations that meet publicly that were formed many years ago.
When I surveyed the long time residents for input on what they would like to see in a museum exhibit about Sandy Spring, I got some interesting answers. One suggested exhibit would revolve around the different eras of Sandy Spring history, from 1728-1800 when there was a plantation economy, from 1801-1945 when villages sprang up, and post 1945 when the farms broke up and the neighborhoods transitioned to suburbia. Another exhibit could focus on notable stress points, like the 1835 “silk craze” when residents thought they would try to start a local silk production industry by importing silk worms, then the Civil War, and the introduction of the automobile. Another suggested looking at people who were ordinary residents but made a difference. Or, some of the notable “firsts” of Sandy Spring, many of which were started by the Quakers.
Personally, I thought one of the most interesting Sandy Spring stories I learned about were the Annals of Sandy Spring—a series of books started by the Quakers that documented the births, deaths, marriages and other events in the Quaker community, even the weather. The Annals served as an ongoing history of the community for many years.