A HISTORY SCHOLAR YOU MAY KNOW

I meet many older students of history when doing research for the Berwyn Heights Historical Committee. But here I want to give a shoutout to a young man who is writing for WETA’s local history blog Boundary Stones.

Ben Shaw hails from College Park Estates (just south of our border) and grew up among us. He graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School and is about to finish his studies at the University of Maryland, College Park with a double major in English and History. His blog posts are about personalities, institutions and events that left an imprint on Washington and its outlying areas, with a focus on Prince George’s County. They range from the Wright brothers training of military pilots at College Park airport to the rise of UMD alumnus Jim Henson and his Muppets. Last year, Ben spent the summer as an intern at Archives II on Metzerott Road, which led to an article on how storage of government records evolved from “sticking them in a basement” to the high tech conservation of the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents at the National Archives today. He writes:

Archived record books

Archived record books

“…Initially, there was no real plan for preserving the Constitution. After its approval by the Continental Congress in 1787, it was kept for a few years by the secretary of the Constitutional Convention, Roger Alden. It passed briefly into the hands of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, after which it was shuttled from unremarkable storage building to unremarkable storage building for years. In 1814, when government officials and documents were being evacuated from Washington ahead of the advancing British army, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were unceremoniously stuffed in a sack along with assorted other documents and tossed on a cart. The Constitution spent the next century being shoved into storage space. It returned to the North Wing of the Treasury for forty years, and then spent an eleven-year stint at the Washington Orphan Asylum; from 1875 until 1921, the Constitution sat in the State Department’s basement, until it was finally moved to a place of honor in the Library of Congress…”

Ben’s articles are thoroughly researched and fun to read. You should check them out.

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