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Chestertown’s World War II Memories featured in new Exhibition
Chestertown, MD: A deadly munitions plant explosion, German POW’s who came into town every day to work on local farms, rationing of food, fuel and metal, raising money and stepping up crop production for the war effort, scanning the skies for enemy aircraft and beaches for submarines. This was World War II Chestertown. The stories of residents old enough to remember—collected by Washington College students as part of the Dr. Davy H. McCall World War II History Project—will be the subject of an exhibition opening November 3 at RiverArts Studio Gallery.
The exhibition, Home Front, World War II: Chestertown Remembers, was developed by students in the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience’s StoryQuest program. Co-sponsored by RiverArts, it will be on display at their gallery, 315 High Street, Chestertown, through November 14th, with a First Friday reception on November 6. Gallery hours are Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sat., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The reception and exhibition are free and open to the public.
StoryQuest is an oral history project that has been collecting the tales of local residents—from watermen to veterans of the Civil Rights movement—for more than five years. “There is a special urgency about recording the stories of people who lived through the Second World War,” says Davy McCall, 93-year-old chair emeritus of the Department of Economics at Washington College, who is both a World War II veteran and a pioneer in documenting Eastern Shore history.
“A lot of the people who had personal experiences are vanishing from this earth,” adds McCall, who helped fund the project. “So now is the time to do this—it can certainly be no later than now. Also, seeing Ken Burns’ wonderful documentary on the Civil War, and seeing the importance of the letters he was able to find to tell that story, emphasized to me how vital it is to record personal recollections of this very important international event while we still can.”
This will be the third StoryQuest exhibit and, thanks to Dr. McCall, the first time students have been paid for their efforts. Over the summer they spent five weeks conducting twenty-four interviews and held two Documentation Days at the Kent County Public Library, where residents could bring their World War II artifacts to be scanned for the exhibition and for eventual storage in the College’s digital archives. Last spring, students pored over World War II era documents in local archives, including letters and old newspapers, to lay the groundwork for the summer’s interviews. They also digitized everything they found.
Joseph Swit ’18, a political science major who is one of StoryQuest’s current team leaders, said collecting stories from people who remember the war is to him the most meaningful part of the process.
“We interviewed and got to know so many people and were able to trace these common threads—almost like a novel, or painting a picture of Chestertown during the war. It is so cool to take a huge international event like World War II and focus it on Kent County and Chestertown, and really just bring it to life.”
This semester, twenty students will continue to conduct interviews and scan artifacts for StoryQuest, and anyone who lived through World War II on the Eastern Shore is invited to share memories and collections. If you have a story or memorabilia, contact Michael Buckley at (443) 875-8138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chestertown RiverArts is a community arts center with more than 400 members who bring artistic talent and a great deal of energy to support the arts. For more information visit chestertownriverarts.org.
The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, founded at the College in 2000, is an innovative center for the study of history, culture and politics, and fosters excellence inthe art of written history through fellowships, prizes, and student programs. www.washcoll.edu/centers/starr