Starr Center receives $200,000 in grant funding for Chesapeake Heartland

By Sophie Foster

News Co-Editor 

On Dec. 16, Washington College announced in a news release that the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience was awarded three grants designated to support the Chesapeake Heartland Project.

The Starr Center was offered a $59,809 Preservation and Access Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a $99,690 Digital Justice Grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, and a $48,043 non-capital planning grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. The grants, amounting to more than $200,000 in total funding, will be used to enhance the project’s efforts to further digitize, as well as to develop a plan to improve user experience on the website and archive.

According to Starr Center intern junior Kamden Richardson, “the Chesapeake Heartland Project is a project run through the Starr Center to help document African American history throughout the Eastern Shore and especially Chestertown.”

The project, which approaches this goal by preserving local families’ stories and conducting oral interviews, among other key endeavors, will benefit significantly from this funding, according to Richardson.

“Chesapeake Heartland has grown out of a collaboration between the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington College, and a diverse array of local organizations including Sumner Hall, Kent Cultural Alliance, Kent County Public Library, and Minary’s Dream Alliance,”  Director of Civic Engagement Dr. Patrick Nugent said. “Its mission is to preserve, digitize, interpret, and make accessible materials related to African American history and culture in Kent County, MD and beyond.”  

According to Dr. Nugent, the project has developed a digital archive over the past four years for the purpose of featuring over 4,000 items, such as historic documents, oral history interviews, music, art, 3D objects, and home movies. This project has also served to create more than 80 paid internships for WC students, introduced a summer program for high school students called Hip Hop Time Capsule, deployed an African American Humanities Truck to more than 30 community events, and partnered with local school systems to bring project materials into grade school education. 

The team of volunteers and employees maintaining the Chesapeake Heartland Project will use this funding to meet a list of goals over the course of the next two years, according to the news release. One such goal is expansion, bringing the project beyond Kent County through grassroots partnerships in Caroline County, Queen Anne’s County, and Talbot County.

“Our most recent grant awards will help us continue our ongoing work on campus and in the community, including growing the archive, creating internships, and supporting local schools. But it will also allow us to grow in a few exciting directions, including a) expanding our digitization efforts beyond Kent County; b) initiating “digital repatriation” with three archives across region; and c) developing an audio-button tool that will allow community members to record stories related to specific images in our archive,” Dr. Nugent said. 

“This new support allows us to take the Starr Center’s Chesapeake Heartland initiative in exciting new directions, ensuring that it will reach broad, diverse audiences; reflect the full richness and diversity of the African American experience; forge innovative models of campus/community civic engagement; and continue to break fresh ground in the public humanities,” Director of the Starr Center Adam Goodheart said for the news release. 

“The Starr Center is a great place on campus for anyone interested in writing or reading or history or science…anyone who’s interested or wants to get involved with their community,” Richardson said.

According to Richardson, students who want to connect with the Starr Center or partake in civic engagement work on campus should reach out to Goodheart or Dr. Nugent.

“Students should know that this project has been student-led and student-centered, developed and supported by over 80 paid student internships over the past five years,” Dr. Nugent said. “We continue to welcome student leaders to get involved by applying for one of our many Chesapeake Heartland internships — whether as a mobile museum ambassador, a digitization technician, a historical researcher, or as a mentor at our summer high school program called Hip Hop Time Capsule.” 

Currently, the Starr Center is accepting applications for developers or exhibits for the mobile museum, the conduction of historical research, and building on the Hip Hop Time Capsule program. According to Dr. Nugent, these positions can be applied to on Paycom, or interested students can email him directly at

Photo by Grace Hazlehurst

Photo Caption: The Starr Center for the American Experience hosts civic engagement endeavors for Washington College and Chestertown.

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