Discovering the Past…


Historic St. Mary’s City is an active academic institution that has compiled a variety of resources related to the history of St. Mary’s City, the development and management of the museum, as well as the landscape of Maryland’s first capital.


The Research Department was established in 1966 with the hiring of Lois Green Carr who began to assemble and analyze documents related to early Maryland, including probate and land records. We continue to discover, care for, research and teach about Maryland’s past.





Curators continue to conduct archaeological and historical research of Maryland’s first capital and its ties to the Atlantic world of the seventeenth century.



The archaeology program at Historic St. Mary’s City has been ongoing since 1971, yet much of the archaeological record of St. Mary’s City remains to be explored. By preserving this record and only partially excavating these irreplaceable sites, St. Mary’s will provide future generations with the opportunity of exploring their past and gaining new perspectives about the beginnings of America.



Explore articles and essays about Maryland history and archaeology, and reports on archaeological research of field school as well as site reports.  Archaeological and historical research provides the essential knowledge for re-created buildings, landscapes and interpretive programs that are vital to the educational mission of the museum.



Four decades of archaeology has created a collection of approximately seven million artifacts representing multiple periods of time-various eras of prehistory, seventeenth century, eighteenth century, and up to the present.    HSMC is developing tools to help scholars and students access collections on-line.  At this time, selected artifacts are accessible on-line but those interested in more in-depth study should contact our Curator of Collections (email hyperlink).


Landscape Curation

Much care has been taken in recreating a seventeenth century tidewater landscape dominated by the St. Mary’s River and surrounded by forest and field.   The beds include plants brought over by the colonists, plants cultivated by the American Indians, and native plants that may have been wild collected.


Maritime Curation

The early English settlers first reached St. Mary’s City by ship, the Ark with its accompanying pinnace the Dove.  The museum has recreated a facsimile of the pinnace, known as the Maryland Dove.  Our historians continue to discover the significance of maritime trade and travel in the 17th century.


Field School

Under the direction of the Chief Archaeologist, each summer Historic St. Mary’s City and St. Mary’s College of Maryland host a rigorous ten week Field School in Historical Archaeology. Offered for over 40 years, the program has attracted students from all over the United States and other countries, with many graduates now holding prominent positions in the field.


On the last weekend of July, visitors are invited to work side by side with archaeologists searching for Maryland’s past. Activities on Tidewater Archaeology Weekend also include special tours and an insider’s look at the museum’s collections in the archaeology lab.