Heritage Studies


List of Projects

Sarah Hartge (Completed 2016)

Role of Heritage in Climate Change Planning

Liz Van Dolah (ongoing)

African American and Native American Histories of the Deal Island Peninsula and Somerset County

Moriah James (Completed 2017)

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Rock Creek Cemetery Mapping 
Sarah Hartge, University of Maryland
Applied Anthropology Masters Student​

University of Maryland Masters student, Sarah Hartge spent the summer of 2016 mapping the Rock Creek Cemetery using a total station generously lent to her by the Department of Geography and Geosciences at Salisbury University. She built an online map of the cemetery in ArcGIS Online and

linked it to a website she built for the Rock Creek United Methodist Church. With help from William Wheatley and other community members, she published over 250 short biographies of people buried at the cemetery and linked them to the online map (along with photographs of every headstone). Other resources for people interested in cemetery heritage projects are available on the website as well. 

This heritage tool serves the community as a way to learn history, study genealogy, and stay connected with family roots. It connects with residents in Chance and the wider Deal Island peninsula area, as well as with those who have moved away but wish to stay connected. 





If you are interested in learning more about the project, contact Sarah Hartge at sarah.hartge0311@gmail.com. 


Thank you to community members, Shirley Massey, Andrew Webster, William Wheatley, Nancy Goldsmith, Robert Shores, and many more for all your support. Also, thank you to the University of Maryland - Department of Anthropology and Dr. Michael Paolisso, as well as Salisbury University - Department of Geography and Geosciences and Dr. Daniel Harris. 

Role of Heritage in Climate Change Governance
Elizabeth Van Dolah
PhD Candidate, University of Maryland Department of Anthropology

Within social science research on climate change, there is increasing interest in the human dimensions of climate change adaptation governance, i.e., the decision-making process facilitating collective actions to address climate-induced vulnerabilities. A number of anthropologists and other social scientists argue that the role of power in adaptation governance needs to be more closely examined as a potential source of vulnerability, where access to power differentially affects the capacities of actors to shape decisions that support their social wellbeing. As a result, researchers are calling for more studies on the underlying processes facilitating empowerment and disempowerment in climate change adaptation planning in order to better understand sources of vulnerability and to more productively develop resilient adaptation planning processes. My dissertation research project answers these calls by examining how cultural heritage, as one such sociocultural process, is used to influence climate change adaptation planning taking place through the DIPP Integrated Coastal Resiliency Assessment.


I approach heritage as a tool for drawing on the past to enhance one’s ability to shape desirable pathways of change. Heritage is created through narratives about the past that mobilize particular values, visions, and meanings in decisions about change (e.g., stories that emphasize the importance of preserving Methodist heritage in the Deal Island as the landscape undergoes changes). These narratives can help support resilience by empowering culturally-informed pathways of change that help sustain communities and their cultural identities. However, heritage can also be a source of vulnerability in instances where the past is used to push values and visions that overshadow culturally-grounded needs and priorities in decision-making processes. By investigating how heritage is used to influence climate change decision-making, this research will provide insights on the sociocultural processes shaping adaptation decision-making, and the implications that these uses have for developing resilience to climate-induced socio-ecological change. It also will help inform the DIPP ICRA process by offering insights on how the past can be most effectively used in planning for future change on the Deal Island Peninsula.

This research project is on-going. Please contact Liz Van Dolah at vandolah@terpmail.umd.edu, if you have questions or want to share your thoughts or insights. Research supported by the Maryland Sea Grant.

African American and Native American Histories of Deal Island Peninsula and Somerset County
Moriah James, University of Maryland Undergraduate Anthropology Student

This research paper was written for the Deal Island Peninsula Project by Moriah James, a UMD Anthropology student interested in cultural heritage. 

The various histories of Native Americans, African Americans and white Americans living on the Eastern Shore have produced a vibrant yet complex narrative over the past few centuries. Citizens of the Deal Island Peninsula and greater Somerset County have contributed to this history in a number of ways. Though there were several Native populations who inhabited the East coast, the Nanticoke people were among some of the groups that lived near the Deal Island Peninsula. Drawing from the abundance of the Chesapeake Bay, the Nanticokes were some of the first to persist through colonization. Since economic pursuits heavily relied on the Chesapeake Bay, the historical ebb and flow of the crabbing and oystering industries continue to play a significant role in the area’s heritage. With a special focus on African American heritage, this paper also explores the ways in which enslaved blacks and freedmen contributed to the economy on local, regional, and international levels. The precarious topic of race relations comes into play with the exploration of how the color of one’s skin impacted opportunities on land and at sea. This paper will also recount investigations of two infamous murder cases that took place in Kent and Somerset Counties. Finally, popular African American sites that were used in the past such as the Dames Quarter Rosenwald School, Henry’s Beach, and the John Wesley M.E. Church sit deserted but certainly not forgotten and remain highly valued for their representations of the Deal Island Peninsula’s past and living histories of its citizens in the present.

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