Jane McWilliams, author of “Annapolis: City on the Severn,” gave a delightful presentation to LLAM members on May 14, 2012, at the Maryland State Law Library in Annapolis. What came as a surprise to many of us in the audience was that Jane is actually a former library staff member. Many years ago, Jane worked part-time for the Maryland State Library (the predecessor of the Maryland State Law Library) writing abstracts of articles from the old Maryland Gazette. In fact she members when Bernice Bernstein, who recently retired from Maryland State Law Library, was hired by the library’s director at the time, Mr. Moulter.
The idea of a comprehensive history of Annapolis was the brain-child of the “Annapolis History Consortium.” Jane, a member of the consortium, agreed to take on the challenge of writing a complete history of her hometown. Her goal was to tell the truth about Annapolis’s history but not in such a way that she would be “run out of town.” Although the genesis of the book was by committee, Jane takes full responsibly and credit for its content.
It was no surprise to learn that Jane found writing a 478-page book to be a challenge. After receiving a grant to start the research, Jane embarked on a quest both locally and nationally for any and materials available about Annapolis. Her final bibliography listed over 500 items. These included diaries, local histories, historical records, and even motion pictures.
The book begins with the Colonial period and ends in 1975. Jane decided to begin her writing and research with the Civil War period because it was the time period that she knew the least about. It was the last chapter, “The City Preserved, 1960-1975” that Jane found the most challenging to write since she had lived through the entire period.
Jane’s presentation lasted just under an hour but was followed by another 45 minutes of questions from the audience. Everyone who left the room gained an appreciation of the work involved in researching, writing, and publishing a local scholarly history.