Finding his place in history

Curator: A 20-year-old city native brings youthful vigor to local historical endeavors.


September 14, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

In flip-flops and a khaki field jacket, Tyler J. Boone kicks back in a chair at the 1887 Taneytown Bank, now converted into the Taneytown History Museum.

As curator of the new museum, many call Boone amazing. In a matter of months, he helped to set up the museum in time for the celebration of Taneytown's 250th anniversary last month. He gives walking tours of the town's historic architecture and was art director of the flier for a self-guided tour of the town. He also wrote Images of America: Taneytown, published in May for the Historical Society of Carroll County.

For the 20-year-old Taneytown native, art and history have been a part of his life as far back as he can remember.

"He's just an amazing young man. He has been a volunteer here for many years," said Barbara R. Lilly, the historical society's executive director.

Lilly recalled a conversation with some people who had visited the Union Mills Homestead and "were blown away that this delightful young man, maybe 10 or 11 years old, took them through the grounds and gave a wonderful tour. It was Tyler Boone."

Starting young

Boone remembers giving tours of the homestead north of Westminster, where he also has been a volunteer, beginning when he was 9 or 10.

"I'm sure at first they must have been a little skeptical, but by the end of it, they got their money's worth," he said.

Boone has taken a semester off from his college studies in art history. He lives with his mother, Barbara, in a circa-1900 Victorian house in downtown Taneytown, where the family's roots date from the 1750s.

"My mother was always interested in art and antiques and history - it was just something that naturally rubbed off on me," he said. An older cousin inspired an interest in genealogy, and "at an early age, I became involved with different organizations."

He is vice president of the Taneytown Heritage Committee and its youngest member.

"He's done a lot of research on Taneytown, been doing it off and on for years," said heritage committee president Alice C. Unger. "I do compliment Tyler on what he's done - he's done a lot, especially for someone so young," she said, pointing to the museum, the book, the flier and other items such as a heritage calendar and fold-up postcards he designed to be sold as souvenirs.

Boone said he feels "lucky that I know so many people in the community, many of them older. ... My friends have enough confidence in me to let me have the freedom to take on these different kinds of projects. Their respect means a lot to me."

He dimples as he smiles and talks of things historical: art, antiques, Taneytown and the neatly arrayed items in the museum, which opened in time for the weeklong celebration held Aug. 21-28.

"It's just always been something that I've loved: history - all eras, but especially local history. I just love to hear people tell stories. My hope is not to have just physical things, but oral histories," he said

The bank building, which also serves as headquarters for the Taneytown Chamber of Commerce, has several hundred items on display.

There's a piece of a Mason-Dixon stone, advertising gimcracks, medicine bottles, leather firefighters helmets, china, crystal, flintlock pistols and muskets, and church and school items that bear many names still known in Carroll County.

One "gem" he points out is an Eli Bentley tall-case clock, or grandfather clock, which leads him to contemplate what time meant before clocks and schedules.

Asked about a 1932 flag honoring George Washington's birthday, Boone has a tale about a visit by the first president to the Adam Good tavern.

"The funny part of the story cannot be proven, but it was put on paper in the 1870s when some people in town still remembered it," Boone said. "As Washington was riding into town, he saw a sign for the tavern belonging to Adam Good. George Washington thought it said `a dam good tavern.'"

"The guy who made the sign was not very good at spacing," he said, "but George Washington decided to stay there."

The turnout at the museum was "very good, very good: 100-plus people for our grand opening," he said. The event even drew people who had moved away from the area.

Boone gives walking tours for the heritage committee and said he enjoys pointing out architectural details. He also paints and draws, because "you should have practice in the discipline as well as be able to talk about it."

An artist's eye

He said he was looking for contrast when he sifted through about 700 photographs, choosing 200 for publication in the Taneytown book for which he also wrote the text, he said.

He said most of the photographs were from the historical society, with some from private collections. "I gave all my royalties to the historical society," he said.

Boone readily acknowledges that "most people my age don't have an interest in this sort of thing. When I'm involved in these kinds of things, it's mostly older people."

But Nancy McCormick, Taneytown's economic development director, said, "He relates well to young people, he relates well to older people. Tyler Boone is one of the most outstanding individuals I have ever ever met."

"He's amazing," said Donna Sako, the chamber's executive director, who worked on the museum project. "Just to get it up and running in six months to me was a miracle. Tyler was extremely instrumental in putting everything together. I don't know how we would have done it without him."

Lilly said Boone also volunteers in the historical society's library and shop, and even made its traditional holiday greens.

"He's a talented young person, and it's so unusual to see someone in their teens or 20s to be so very generous with their time and talent," Lilly said. "Tyler shines."

Museum hours this month are Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are advised to call ahead: 410-756-4234.

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