CHURCH CREEK, Md. - As is evident by the many historical sites on the Tubman Byway, Dorchester County is steeped in rich and valuable history, especially as it relates to the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman.
And now another historical site is opening in the area and it's quite a "get" for the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center is opening its doors next month. Park rangers at the state park where the visitor center is located say the visitor center is designed to tell the story of Tubman's life as you meander from room to room.
It's no coincidence that the center is located near where Tubman was born in Dorchester County in 1822.
She spent her formative years here on the Eastern Shore where she learned values of faith, family, community and freedom. This area and landscape undoubtedly had a lasting impact on her and on American history.
The tour will be largely self-guided. When you first walk in, there's a large multi-media room at your disposal. More in-depth tours will also be available led by the Park Rangers.
It's a vision that's been in the works for decades. Park Manager Dana Paterra says this center is a direct result of the support of the surrounding community.
On March 11th, there will be a grand opening complete with a number of guest speakers including the architect on the project who will talk about hidden symbolism behind the site design and materials, such as the Birchwood from the shore of Virginia used to cover the entryway and halls.
Assistant Park Ranger Angela Crenshaw says the center paints a clear picture of Tubman’s life.
It was here in Dorchester County that she learned everything she needed to know to be a successful conductor on the Underground Railroad and to lead a raid during the Civil War. She worked in timber fields with her father Ben Ross, who was a respected timber foreman and that's where she learned how to read the woods, how to forage and how to survive
All of the exhibits are based on Dr. Kate Clifford Larson's book, "Bound for the Promised Land".
Ranger Crewshaw says the exhibits are meant to be emotive, evocative, and very immersive while staying light on text. Most of the exhibits start with a quote directly from Harriet Tubman and include a beautiful image, usually a painting with some text on the side.
There are touch panels so you can be hands-on with any of the 3-D renderings you'll see-- along with an audio component.
Crenshaw says many of the images are life size and are intended to make you think about what it must have been like for Harriet Tubman and those she led to freedom on the Underground Railroad. From crossing thick, wet marshland to being in the dead of night with only the glare of the moon and the stars to guide you, it's an experience that is designed to enlighten, engage and uplift.
The center is located at 4068 Golden Hill Road in Church Creek in the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, a partnered effort with the Maryland State Park Service.
Admission is free. For more information head to the website at www.nps.gov/hatu.
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