WYE MILLS — The Old Wye Mill added historic grain and flour bags to its display Wednesday, July 31, following a year of collecting and sewing them with fine thread on boards complete for framing.
The “In the Bag” project preserved 12 large and 60 small cloth bags to be displayed at the mill, the oldest continuously operated water-powered grist mill in the U.S. and the oldest commercial structure in continuous use in Maryland.
“This was (much) work by our volunteers, but we were preserving the history of the Eastern Shore,” said John Nizer, president of the Friends of Wye Mill.
Funding for the project started with an $1,800 grant awarded by the Eastern Shore Heritage Inc. and the Maryland Heritage Area Authority in January 2018. The monies went to hiring Robert Zimmerman, former head designer of exhibitions for the Baltimore Museum of Art, to begin properly preserving the quickly deteriorating bags.
“It started with a consultation to see what we could do with the bags to make them presentable and to add longevity to them. Prior to this, they were just thumbtacked to the wall and now they’re presented in a way to give them new life,” said Zimmerman.
With the help of the Queen Anne’s County Homemakers Clubs, eight members from three different clubs volunteered to work on the project sewing, not starting until July 2018.
Among the artifacts displayed is a bag from the Berlin Airlifts of World War II with many of the bags coming from a private collection of famed miller Barton McGuire in 1986.
“It was an awesome experience making sure they were preserved because the legacy of the bags themselves is what’s important. They tell of what happened here at the mill and where they came from. This was done in love to preserve our history,” said Shelia Shorter, a member the Lucretia Kennard Homemakers Club.