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Conversations with Jan Sharik Baker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jan Sharik Baker.

Hi Jan, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I am the lead docent and museum collections manager for the Benson-Hammond House, which is a historic property and farm museum.

The site is run by volunteers of the Ann Arundell County Historical Society and has been open to the public since its restoration in the early 1980s.

We tell the story of the Benson and the Hammond families that lived there from 1820 through 1947 when the farm was sold to build the Friendship Airport, now known as the Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport.

We are an educational site and hope to keep the important farming history of north county alive for those who are interested in this story. We include the genealogies of connected families as well, and discuss the life, struggles, and experiences from this period in time.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In the beginning, the house was just a shell that had sat empty for decades. The members of the society raised funds to be able to save the only remaining farmhouse still sitting on airport property.

Many furnishings in the house today were generously donated by descendants of the original families and from those of surrounding farms that also no longer exist. Over the past forty years or so, many people have generously given their time and efforts to maintain the house and grounds.

Outbuildings were brought to the property in the 1990s and have just been recently partially refurbished with new roofing, in an attempt to keep them in good order to maintain their important presence. This could not have happened without the donations of our supporters. An outdoor summer kitchen a laundry building, and a meat house, to just name a few.

Exhibits are regularly updated in order to keep the site inviting and interesting for visitors. Funding is always an issue and we were severely negatively impacted by having to close during the recent pandemic.

Our main fundraisers were canceled and we struggled to pay our expenses. We also have had to make repairs which have been difficult due to the rising costs of materials and labor.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My long-time career has been as a professional floral designer, and this has assisted me in creating exhibits for the house, as well as coordinating events such as a recent Lavender Tea with related vendors that sold local honey and lavender soaps and gift items.

As a genealogist and historian, I have connections so we have invited heritage societies in to be on hand when we discussed the families that worked and farmed these areas.

My long-time study of my own family history – I am a descendant of Thomas Benson who built the house in 1820- has helped to relay the tales of these incredible people. We have a team of wonderful docents, each with their own expertise in different topics, to interest our guests.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
Learn as much as you can about what you will be telling others about.

Then study, visit other museums and historic sites, and never be afraid to listen to and learn from the experiences of others. Each day should bring something new if you are open to it.

Pricing:

  • Adult tours $7.00
  • Children age 6 to 15 $3.00
  • Children 5 and under FREE

Contact Info:

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