Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum is under new leadership. Archaeologist Greg Pierce has been named as the new executive director of the 560-acre state park and museum in St. Leonard.
“This is a place where history and nature surrounds you,” Pierce said in an interview with The Calvert Recorder, recalling the words on signage at the park’s entrance that signal to him that JPPM is where he wants to be.
Pierce, who believes historic preservation is a powerful and effective tool for community engagement and connecting individuals with the past, is looking forward to working with the “talented staff” at JPPM, according to a June 26 news release from Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Rob McCord announcing the appointment.
Since 2014, Pierce served as both the Wyoming state archaeologist and as an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Wyoming.
During his tenure, he managed the university’s archaeological repository, the only federally recognized repository in the state. There he conducted archeological research, performed contract services in archeology, and provided technical assistance to citizens and partner agencies, the release states.
Pierce earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and history from the University of Arizona, a master’s degree in anthropology from East Carolina University, and a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Wyoming.
Pierce told The Calvert Recorder how people were using the park’s landscape has changed drastically over time from the Native Americans, the colonial era, to former U.S. Ambassador Jefferson Patterson’s family in the 1930s, and even today.
“It’s a really interesting human environment. We are trying to bring all these things together to find new and creative ways to bring it to the public,” Pierce said of his priorities in his first year as executive director.
“We are excited Dr. Pierce has joined us here in Maryland to share his expertise and passion for archaeology along with his enthusiasm for improving upon the tradition of JPPM as a premier site to interact with our past in Maryland,” McCord said in the release.
Pierce replaces former executive director Mark Thompson, who served since 2011. The new executive director will also assume purview over the park’s shoreline along the Patuxent River, miles of hiking trails, a visitor center with interactive exhibits, educational programs and events.
JPPM also boasts a conservation laboratory, which houses unearthed historic and prehistoric artifacts. The collections are boxed and stored and then brought out for research or exhibits and educational purposes. Currently, the lab has over nine million artifacts from all over the state of Maryland. Forty-percent of the lab’s collections come from state highway work. The park is also home to more than 70 archaeological sites. Also at JPPM, is a 1933 colonial revival brick house that Ambassador Patterson and his wife Mary owned. Mary Patterson donated the land and its structures to the state of Maryland in 1983, after her husband’s death.
The house, traditionally open for tours, is undergoing review for renovations. Its furnishings have been photographed, packed up and catalogued, but will be restored in the house once structural and accessibility improvements are made.
“We are working on the interpretation of the house now … how we make it accessible to the public to experience it somehow,” Pierce said, noting the presentation may be in the form of signage, information on the web, public talks or tours.
Pierce, who is originally from Pennsylvania, took the helm of the St. Leonard Park in late June.