Eugenia C. Holland, 89, Historical Society curator

January 10, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Eugenia Calvert Holland, a former curator at the Maryland Historical Society whose abilities endeared her to historians and scholars, died Tuesday of heart failure at Roland Park Place Retirement Community. She was 89.

Miss Holland was a descendant of the Lords Baltimore, the 17th century Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens and Sir George Yeardley, a Colonial governor of Virginia. She developed an interest in history quite naturally, friends said.

"She was surrounded by history. It was a natural part of her. It was her life," said Romaine S. Somerville, a former director of the Maryland Historical Society.

"She was the very sweet but indomitable curator who determined what came in and what didn't," she said.

Miss Holland began her career at the Historical Society in 1948 and retired in 1977.

As curator, she organized exhibits, arranged the items for the exhibits, hung the pictures and wrote the accompanying catalogs.

"In those days, she was the Maryland Historical Society," said Stiles T. Colwill, who was chief curator of the collection until 1988.

"She had a tremendous memory, impeccable eye that could tell quality at a glance," said Mrs. Somerville.

"She could look at a piece and go on and on and never have to refer to a record. She had it all in her head," said Mrs. Somerville.

Major exhibits during Miss Holland's tenure included "Edwin Bennett and the Products of his Baltimore Pottery" and "Four Generations of Commissions: The Peale Collection."

"She was a remarkable person, and it is amazing that she had no formal museum training whatsoever. She just assimilated the information and did a superior job," said Samuel Hopkins, former society president and treasurer.

"Besides being a genteel lady, she was charismatic and energetic, just the tops."

A tall, slender woman, Miss Holland was a commanding figure as she charged around the society's West Monument street


Mr. Colwill described her as the "epitome of a lady."

"She was a lady in the old-fashioned sense, with ramrod posture. She sat at her desk dressed in a well-tailored three-piece suit with her carefully coiffed hair," Mr. Colwill said.

"There she sat talking while puffing on cigarettes. All the while she talked, she moved her hands, one of which was weighted down by her mother's diamond ring," he said.

Mr. Colwill praised her voluminous chain of contacts, which he said included every historian, academic or scholar who had written about Maryland history. She knew most of them and would recommend researchers and those with questions to them.

"Because she knew people in Baltimore who reached back to the 19th century, she was a touchstone to another time, and with her death those contacts are gone," Mr. Colwill said.

Miss Holland spent her life in her parents' turreted Roland Avenue house until she moved to the retirement community in the late 1980s. Her parents were original residents of Roland Park.

She amassed and packed closets with boxes of historical information and data.

"She never threw anything away," said Joanne Yundt Calvert, a cousin by marriage.

She particularly enjoyed car trips along the East Coast to examine and receive donations from Marylanders.

Miss Holland's other interests included the restoration of the Carroll Mansion at Mount Clare.

She was the daughter of William West Holland and Rosalie Eugenia Calvert Holland and was a 1929 graduate of National Park Seminary in Forest Glen, Montgomery County.

She was a member of the National Society of the Colonial Dames in America in the State of Maryland, the Society of the Ark and the Dove and the Women's Hamilton Street Club, and was a founding member of the Mother Seton House Foundation.

She was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St. where a funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today.

She is survived by a godson, George Davis Calvert III of Denver; a goddaughter, Alice Wigglesworth Lescure of Bethesda; and numerous cousins.

tTC Pub Date: 1/10/98

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