Exhibits highlight Tubman’s journey for freedom
CHURCH CREEK — Exhibits at the newly opened Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Dorchester County focus on Tubman’s early life and work on the Eastern Shore and her escape from slaver y.
The exhibits were designed by Haley Sharpe Design from the Uniter Kingdom, based out of an office in Toronto, Canada. Tubman researcher and biographer Dr. Kate Clifford Larson serves as the Visitor Center official historical consultant.
A visitor’s experience begins with a brief, orientation video in a small theater room. Visitors will then continue on a self-guided tour through the exhibit space.
Exhibits aim to paint a picture of what life would have been like for Tubman. Visitors see the rendering of a cabin similar to that she would have lived in.
Visitors will be met with largescale murals depicting important places and events, such as the forest and water where Tubman trapped muskrats, harvested oysters, and logged with her father. One mural shows a scene of Tubman on a mission to free her parents, and their dramatic escape from Poplar Neck with horse and wagon.
A portion of the space is designed with lighting to make the visitor imagine they are deep in the forest in the dead of night, guided only by the North Star, as were slaves seeking their freedom.
“I was free, and they should be free,” is the quotation spoken by Tubman in 1868 and displayed in the forest space. The area also includes large signage with the names of those known to be conducted by her on the Underground Railroad.
Tubman’s words loom large over each exhibit, in a way narrating her own story.
The corn crib at Poplar Neck where her brothers hid all day, waiting for night to come and their chance at freedom, is quite a sizeable exhibit.
There are statues of Tubman and images of her throughout the exhibit space. Artist Brendan O’Neill of Talbot County designed and shaped a life-size bust of Tubman that sits on a wye oak and cedar pedestal.
“This is a game-changer for us, the influx of visitors coming in and the potential for economic impact,” said Dorchester County Tourism Director Amanda Fenstermaker. “More than that, the idea that this is happening after years of working on this, 30-plus years of people in the community holding this torch, to say that something should be done to recognize Harriet Tubman.
“To see this come to fruition in such a monumental way symbolizes that we are really proud of her, and that we’re standing ready to welcome people from around the world into our community.”
Fenstermaker said she is very proud of the high quality exhibits, particularly the presentation of Tubman quotations.
“Tubman’s is a wonderful, inspiring stor y of a most unlikely candidate,” she said.
Descendants of Tubman had a special opportunity on Friday, March 10, to tour the exhibits with Gov. Larry Hogan.
The northern half of the visitor center is home to the permanent exhibits. Additional space is available for temporary or rotating exhibits.
The Visitor Center and park space also features a legacy garden, hiking trails, and a 2,600 square foot open pavilion with a stone fireplace.
Special events will be hosted from time-to-time by the park, and groups may request in advance to have ranger-led tours of the visitor center and park.
Admission to the park is free of charge, and it is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Information about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center can be found through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Ser vice websites.
For more on Dorchester County tourism, visit www.visitdorchester.org.
This exhibit at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Dorchester County shows the great distances Tubman’s family had to travel to be together.
Henry Highland Garnet’s quote, “Let your motto be RESISTANCE! RESISTANCE! RESISTANCE! No oppressed people have ever secured their Liberty without resistance,” is featured at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Dorchester County.
This exhibit at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center depicts the corn crib Tubman and her family hid in near Poplar Neck in Caroline County on Christmas Day 1854.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center features many exhibits.
Guests look at an exhibit at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center Saturday, March 11.