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The History Saga of Humans and the Environment at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
This story is about a strategic location on a great estuary, human interactions with rich natural resources, and the founding history of the United States. It is ever-evolving, built around the science of archaeology and the inferences of oral and written history for the 2,650-acre campus of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), 5 miles south of Annapolis and 25 miles east of Washington DC. It relies upon volunteer citizen scientists who have been piecing together a fabric of place and time that is entirely local, yet forms a quilt of context for America today.

Extending back 3,000 years to the earliest people who gathered oysters from the Bay and developed an elaborate culture here, it continues to the present with surprising new discoveries almost weekly. It is filled with intriguing characters: war heroes and bravery, horrible acts of genocide and enslavement, tremendous resilience of character, great generosity, good luck, pirates, farmers, philanthropists, eccentric scientists, and ordinary people who lived here through the centuries and built the diversity of the American experience.

At the core of the story are two families: The Sellmans, who first built on the site in 1735 and lived for most of 200 years in a house that SERC is now restoring, and which is the oldest in-situ building in the Smithsonian Institution. Also, the Kirkpatrick-Howats, who farmed and forested the land as stewards for nearly 100 years, and who were pivotal to establishing SERC. Living amongst and adjacent to these families are the Black families of slaves and freed people who created parallel cultures and institutions of pride. This story will resonate with everyone throughout the Smithsonian and beyond.
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