St. John’s Site Museum

Project Type: Museum

St. John’s Site Museum
Historic St. Mary’s City
St. Mary’s City, MD
Architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Although perhaps not as well known as some of the higher profile historical sites in the Northeast, the St. John’s site is very significant in American history and probably the most famous historical site in Maryland. Of particular significance are two important facts- first; it is the place where a woman first requested the right to vote, and second; it is where the first person identifying as an African American participated in a general assembly. The building itself was originally a house and was one of the largest buildings in the colony located in St. Mary’s City. The archaeological excavations began in 1972 and a rudimentary structure was built over them in 1976. In 2008, the new, modern museum was opened, outfitted with audio-visual and interactive features, artifacts, and a large display area showcasing the original foundation of the building.

The interior of the museum space is a mixture of rustic elements and modern construction, meant to showcase the history of the site while immersing the visitors in a memorable experience. The floor in the remains area is made of dirt, while the finishes in the rest of the building are wood, wood decking for the ceiling, and gypsum board. This combination of materials provided an interesting mixture of sound-absorption and acoustics which was challenging and somewhat out of the ordinary to analyze and test. There were traditional construction materials used for the partition walls which we studied as well to provide guidance for mechanical system sound reduction which was part of the project scope as well.

Our design recommendations focused on providing the museum visitors with a quality experience while they learned the history of this important place. We concentrated on reducing noise from the mechanical systems into the various artifact display rooms within the main building and making sure the acoustics were proper for large gatherings of visitors. In a multi-purpose space like this, the design measures implemented for sound reduction and room acoustics need to be addressed with the function of each space in mind, and our solutions on this project were very successful. The interior is pleasant and free from undesired noise from the building’s mechanical systems, and the main display area is not burdened with echoes or reverberation which would be detrimental to the visitors’ experience.