In a local dispute over artifact ownership, The Dutchess County Historical Society (New York) is now seeking the return of artifacts from the Bard College professor that was hired to oversee an archaeological excavation to unearth a free slave community in Hyde Park several years ago. The Hyde Park Town Board has also asked for the artifacts back because the town officials are adamant that they belong to the town.
Unfortunately, the Bard Archaeology Field School professor, Dr. Christopher Linder, isn’t talking – nor is anyone else who was involved, including a prominent local resident. It is still unclear how many artifacts were actually recovered from the Guinea Community project, as it called.
The only information known about the project comes from local media reports and the course listing from Bard at the time:
The Guinea Community dated back to the late 1700s and was home to a group of free black slaves who had small farms along a mill stream and worked for “elite” families along the Hudson River. Primus and Elizabeth Martin were the community leaders, and it was their house and yard that apparently were the first excavated, along with several foundations found nearby. Those included a house leased from the Bard family, who once owned the property, to Artemis “Quock” Quakenbush, a free man rumored to have been released from slavery by Quakers.
The project began in the spring of 2000, and they broke ground the following year with high school and Bard college students working over the summers. It was due to enter its fifth season in the summer of 2007.
Remains of cellar holes, a well, two stone quarries, extensive refuse middens and a scattering of cultural materials were uncovered over the course of the field schools.
Hyde Park Town Supervisor, Aileen Rohr, revisited the issue at an April 7th board meeting. She said the county “essentially…did not receive the returnables that they were supposed to from this project, and so they have entered into a disagreement with the professor and have now written a letter to Dr. Lindner and Bard College demanding the return of these artifacts.”
Rohr added that the town is also seeking the return of the artifacts because they were found on town property. Town representatives have written a letter to Bard College, but has yet to receive any response.
At the town board meeting, Town Attorney Warren Replansky clarified the situation: “We’re not involved in the dispute and we’re not passing judgment on who is right or wrong. This is something between the Historical Society and the archaeologist who performed the work. We’re not saying that anything was done improper. We’re keeping out of that portion of the battle. The dog we have in this fight is that, when these artifacts are recovered — and I think they are being stored some place — then they become the town’s artifacts.”
Rohr informed the Observer (see link below) that if the artifacts are ever recovered, they will be stored with the county historical society, and that DCHS is now looking to continue the project by hiring a new archaeologist.
The Observer journalist did reach out to Dr. Lindner for comment, however he stated that he has been advised by his attorney not to speak any further regarding this situation.