Archaeological Overview & Preservation Plan
To develop its archaeological resources as well as to protect them from unnecessary disturbance, Tudor Place has collaborated since 2002 with five independent archaeological and cultural resource firms. A 2009 summary report by the University of Maryland Department of History and Archaeology helps ensure that Tudor Place practices conform with the Society for Historical Archaeology’s guidelines for preserving, documenting, and interpreting subterranean cultural resources.
Archaeology plays a critical role in efforts to share the legacy of the Peter family, countermanding and enhancing conclusions drawn from their reminiscences, records, and material possessions. Some Tudor Place residents, such as Armistead Peter, Jr., and Armistead Peter 3rd, extensively recorded their perspectives and knowledge of the estate through written correspondence, diaries, receipts, and other archival materials. But many of their predecessors are audible only through the material record. In addition to tracing the uses of the land and its outbuildings, excavations shed light on the domestic lives of enslaved Africans owned by Thomas and Martha Peter and their daughter Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon. Beyond the estate’s boundaries, they yield insights into the socioeconomic and cultural development of Washington and the United States, the workings of the slave economy, and the growth of free black communities in urban settings.
From 2006 to 2009, Tudor Place commissioned a comprehensive report summarizing archaeological research to date and outlining priorities and guidelines for continued conservation and future excavations. Working with 17 graduate students, Dr. Donald W. Linebaugh, RPA, Director of the graduate program in historic preservation of the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, developed a 111-page plan that described four prior archaeological excavations (limited in scope and reactive to utility work and/or proposed construction); provided guidelines for all future excavations; and outlined 13 recommendations for management and preservation of the site’s archaeological resources.
To address the Overview and Plan’s first- and second-priority recommendations, the museum re-engaged Dovetail Cultural Resource Group to conduct further excavations. Tudor Place’s partnership with Dovetail has enabled continuity between excavations and external support for the 2009 plan’s implementation. In its comprehensive Phase I Survey, completed in 2010, Dovetail established a datum point and grid for the property and conducted close-interval shovel tests (Phase I survey) of the entire property.
To prevent disturbance of the archaeological record, the museum avoids unnecessary maintenance that disturbs the ground and integrates archaeology into employee and volunteer training. Tudor Place staff developed a protocol for recording and processing surfaces finds in 2011. In keeping with the museum’s educational mission, archaeological research on the site is incorporated into public outreach programs, marketing, and development materials.
With future funding and resources, Tudor Place hopes to implement the Overview and Preservation Plan report’s remaining suggestions, including a standardized cataloguing system for artifacts; expanded digital resources, such as a GIS database of all archaeological excavations and surveys; and a triage plan for unexpected discoveries made during soil-disturbing activities, such as weather-related events.