Here's a riddle for you:
What do Native American axeheads, brain coral, dead birds, snakes in jars, and a collection of snail shells once owned by one of the "Big Four" founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital have in common?
If you guessed that they might all be part of a museum collection, you'd be right. What you probably wouldn't guess, though, is that they're right here in Overlea.
The Natural History Society of Maryland, formerly headquartered on Charles Street downtown, has been located at 6908 Belair Road since 2006.
And the group, run by volunteers, has big plans.
Longtime group volunteer Charlie Davis and board member Amy Young explained that the group hopes their Chesley Place space will become a full-fledged museum.
"We chose Overlea because there's a hole in the map of nature centers on the east side," Davis said. "We wanted to create a place where people live, so we can encourage them to learn what's going on in their own back yards."
Davis, 53, is a consulting ecologist who has volunteered with the Natural History Society of Maryland since 1987.
"There is no other state natural history museum," Davis said. "We were losing valuable collections as they either went out of state or ended up in landfills. There's no place in Maryland for those important objects."
Check out the gallery above to see some of the objects in the collection.
So that's one function they hope to fill: an open-to-the-public museum that can serve as a resource for residents on the east side Baltimore County and Baltimore City, and Maryland at large.
"People can't make sound decisions about the environment if they don't know how the world works," he said. "Whether its plants flowering, insects pollinating or birds migrating—we want to focus on that basic knowledge level."
"People used to have that knowledge but living in this built-up society, there's now a real disconnect," said Young, a Parkville resident.
Renovating the building and opening it to the public is a long term goal, but even now the Natural History Society of Maryland has a large collection of objects and keeps a schedule of programs on a Meetup.com group that boasts about 400 members.
In fact, soon they'll be hosting a sort of open house at their headquarters.
Called a "Naturalist Show and Tell," the event will be held from 3:30-5 p.m. Oct. 21. Anyone can attend and attendees are encouraged to bring a natural object they would like to learn more about.
"It's really designed to be a kind of informal class," Davis said. "Bring something you want to know about and we'll help you figure it out."
There are even ways for anyone to get involved in what Young called "citizen science projects;" last year members of the group participated in a "cricket crawl" where they partnered with the Audubon Naturalist Society and U.S. Geological Service and listened for different types of night insects and helped to produce a species map.
"There are between 800 and 1,000 people taking and submitting photographs—this is the third year of the five year project."
Did you know the Natural History Society of Maryland was right in your backyard? Have you ever stopped by?