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PhD Candidate Bridges Gentrification Gap

Along streets lined with historic stone row houses in Baltimore’s Hampden-Woodberry neighborhood, change is afoot. “This was an old 19th century mill town, a close knit community filled with white, working class families. Now it’s undergoing gentrification,” says David Gadsby, a PhD candidate in anthropology.

Property taxes are rising. Old-time residents feel they have don’t have a place here anymore. New residents don’t know much about the area’s history and culture,” he says.

 

Linking Past and Present

Gadsby is working to bridge this gap through a community archeology project he co-directs.

“Promoting this neighborhood’s unique heritage can help create dialogue between disparate groups and provide a link between the past and present,” he says. Through a series of history workshops informing the community about the project and recruitment of local high school students and volunteers, Gadsby hopes to involve the community in every stage of the project while uncovering some of the area’s lost history.

He explains, “This was a classic mill town—where management ran the show. They built the houses—many of which still stand—and the churches. They extended credit at the company store. It was all very paternalistic. Unfortunately, the mill workers didn’t keep accounts of daily life. We hope our digs will unearth evidence of the workers’ life styles and shed some light on their experiences.”

Gadsby’s PhD coursework has provided him with much of the framework he needs to direct the Hamden archeology project. “The curriculum is demanding—but feasible. There’s a strong emphasis on activism, but at the same time, the activist drive is tempered by fine, academic work.”