Dr. Joanne Martin and her late husband, Dr. Elmer Martin, began their museum in 1980 as a mobile temporary exhibit, filling a Pontiac with four wax figures purchased with the down payment they had intended for their future home. Though the museum has visited numerous national conventions, Dr. Martin has personally toured Mexico's murals and Ellis Island to glean new ideas for reaching visitors of every economic level. One of Dr. Martin's favorite moments came at the opening of a President Obama exhibit just before his inauguration, when scores of eager visitors filled the room to capacity, cameras in hand.
While designing the first synagogue in Maryland, architect Robert Cary Long, Jr. cleaved to graceful, Greek Revival lines and pillars. In 1845, his vision came to life in the Lloyd Street Synagogue, which welcomed the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Twenty-six years later, contention among the congregation about reforming its liturgy and ritual led some members to break off and form the Chizuk Amuno Congregation—who built their own Moorish Revival-style Synagogue (known today as B’nai Israel Synagogue) right down the street from the first. Today, both places of worship nestle within the campus of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, formed in 1960 to rescue and restore the Lloyd Street Synagogue—which now claims the title of third-oldest standing synagogue in the United States.
The museum has gone beyond just restoring the historic place of worship, which included the preservation of its original 1845 mikveh (a ritual bath). It has built three exhibition galleries that interpret the Jewish-American experience, focusing on Jewish life in Maryland. Art, rare objects, photographs, and oral histories fill these spaces, forming rotating and permanent exhibits that delve into topics such as the symbolism and traditions of Jewish food and the evolution of the Jewish market on Lombard Street. In the lower level of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, a multimedia exhibit explores its three immigrant congregations.
Before leaving, visitors can stop by a gift shop to pick up necklaces with the Star of David, custom kippots, and toys. On the right day, guests can extend their visit to include events, or they can return for educational programming that teaches non-Jewish students about Judaism and guides teens in interfaith dialogues.
The historically curious can also make an appointment to trace genealogical roots at the Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center, found inside the museum’s Anne Adalman Goodwin Library. These form the JMM’s collections-and-research center, which boasts more than 150 major manuscript collections and 24,000 cataloged photographs.
Inside the 1793-built Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, originally owned by the Young-Pickersgill family, figures donning period dress bring the household to life. Mary Pickersgill, maker of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag, is among the historical figures portrayed. Mary and her family—including her mother, Rebecca Young, and her apprentice, Grace Wisher—describe life in the 19th century and how Mary stitched the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem and the national anthem.
After exploring the house on 30- to 40-minute self-guided or docent-led tours, guests can learn about America's defense of the Chesapeake Bay against the British navy, which culminated in the battle that inspired Key's verse. The first floor's permanent exhibition gallery focuses on that defense with artifacts such as a drum used by an American soldier during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry. Kid attendees, meanwhile, can head over to the Discovery Gallery to whip up a pretend meal at a replica of the Flag House kitchen or design their own flag to string up on the gallery's flagpole.
• For $4, you get a one-day individual adult admission (up to an $8 value). • For $17, you get a one-year individual museum membership (a $35 value), including general admission, 15% off at the museum gift shop, 10% off at the museum café, and discounts on select educational programs and lectures.
The Baltimore Museum of Industry highlights the workers and small businesspeople whose contributions during the Industrial Revolution and beyond helped build the country’s framework. After viewing the museum’s 100,000-object collection—including an 1850s shipyard bell and an 1820s Acorn printing press—members enjoy 25% off at the BMI gift shop and receive a 15% discount at select restaurants. Museumgoers romp through bygone eras, dropping by sites including the recently renovated 1865 Platt Oyster Cannery and a reproduction of the 1910 pharmacy where Noxzema was invented. Just beyond the interior walls lies the last operating steam tugboat in the nation, the coal-fired SS Baltimore, and the 1937 Mini Mariner chronicles aquatic exploits with inspirational Popeye quotes and a restored World War II flying boat bomber.
The American Visionary Art Museum devotes its space to original work by self-taught artists who honed their craft—often unintentionally—while operating on the outskirts of the formal art world. As temporary exhibitions explore a particular artist or theme in depth, the permanent collection displays thousands of powerful and often whimsical items, such as Wayne Kusy’s Lusitania, a detailed toothpick replica of the doomed vessel, or the haunting Applewood Figure, an emaciated sculpture said to wince whenever someone eats a piece of fruit. The museum spreads its arresting pieces throughout three historical buildings, including the expansive main building, which boasts a reflective mirrored-mosaic exterior and neighbors the Tall Sculpture Barn, an ex-whiskey warehouse fully equipped with 45-foot ceilings for large-scale projects. A wildflower garden—complete with meditation chapel—and a sculpture plaza featuring a 55-foot whirligig beckon visitors to the museum's outdoor space, where envious clouds shape themselves into crude versions of Pietà. Completing any trip, the museum's Sideshow gift shop stuffs shopping bags with an ever-rotating collection of eclectic artwork, jewelry, toys, and more.
The Walters Art Museum’s collection of priceless paintings, pre-dynastic Egyptian pieces, and Greek sculptures bestow attendants with an expansive overview of artistic expression through time. In 1229 AD, a number of Archimedes’s works were erased and overwritten by Johannes Myrones when he was hurriedly scribbling down a grocery list. Through meticulous preservation techniques, a team of scientists from The Walters Art Museum have recovered the lost formulas over the span of an 11-year adventure that patrons can experience by visiting six interactive learning stations and two galleries of gathered materials. The exhibit culminates in a presentation to discuss the future of art conservation, including topics such as how nanotechnology could revolutionize silver preservation or restore finger paintings that were trapped behind a refrigerator.