Handicap Accessible: Yes
Staff Size: 25?50
Parking: Parking garage
Most popular offering: African-American art, history, culture
Pro Tip: $6 validated parking is directly across the street at the PMI Parking Garage.
Good for Kids: Yes
Walk-ins Welcome: Yes
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum celebrates the achievements of African Americans, especially those from Maryland?which often means expanding on grade-school history lessons. For instance, Betsy Ross is typically credited with making the first American flag. However, one of the museum's rotating exhibits reveals that Grace Wisher, an African American indentured servant, also worked on the original star spangled banner. Dubbed "For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People," that exhibit was recognized as one of the country's best in the summer of 2014 by USA Today?in part because it featured a scrap of the real, first flag, covered in the bald eagle feathers that filled the air back then. That's just one of the myriad rotating exhibits that the museum has hosted, to complement permanent collections that highlight Maryland African Americans' endurance through two centuries of slavery, and their artistic and intellectual innovations.
What sets your business apart from your competition?
A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum is the east coast?s largest African-American museum. Besides rotating exhibitions, enjoy live musical performances from gospel jazz to steel drums. Films in our theater have enriched audiences on the history of soul food, civil rights, and more. For families, programs like art workshops and living history bring our mission to life. Lectures and our resource center enrich what you'll find in our permanent collection. We also nourish the body with the best soul food in Baltimore at our museum cafe. Visit our website for a full calendar of events.
What was the inspiration for starting this business?
To showcase the rich contributions of Maryland African Americans, from Harriet Tubman and Thurgood Marshall to the unsung heroes who helped make Maryland what it is today.
What?s your favorite part about your job?
Having people experience something new, different, and enriching to their lives.
A long fly ball from Oriole Park could hit the row house where, on February 6, 1895, Babe Ruth entered the world and sent chills down the spines of pitchers and outfielders across the country. After the legend earned more than 700 home runs and 2,200 RBIs, his career ended and his life faded, leaving his birthplace to fall into disrepair. In the late 1960s, a campaign restored both it and the adjoining structures to create the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. Babe’s widow, daughters, and sister collaborated with the museum founders to create exhibits commemorating the record breaker’s life and career, filling glass cases with balls and jerseys and restoring his bedroom to how it would have looked the year that the stork pitched the little Bambino through the window.
Originally, this museum also explored the history of the Baltimore Orioles—Ruth’s first professional team—and hosted the Baltimore Colts’ archives. Its quickly growing collection of artifacts, however, soon led to the need for a larger location. In 2005, the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum retained those items relating to its titular legend while the rest found a new home in the Sports Legends Museum. This museum occupies the basement and first floor of the historic Camden Station, sprawling throughout 22,000 square feet with exhibits that delve into subjects such as the history of baseball in Maryland and collegiate ball.
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 Andrew Logan's mirror-winged Black Icarus, 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 Piet?. 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 Star-Spangled Banner Flag House was built in 1793, originally owned by the Young-Pickersgill family. 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.
Since 1844, Maryland Historical Society has kept residents connected to their state's heritage by publishing educational books and a quarterly magazine. These days, its museum brings that archived history to life with more than 350,000 objects, most notably the oldest-known surviving manuscript of Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner," which includes its original, crossed out title, "Get Ready for Baseball, America." Guests can also marvel at artifacts ranging from 900 pieces of furniture made between 1634 and 2000 to more than 2,000 paintings, including seven by Joshua Johnson, America's first professional African American portrait painter. Meanwhile, its Civil War exhibit occupies more than 5,000 square feet with 3-D video presentations. The society also sponsors extensive educational programs that enlighten young students with field trips, plus adult programs that include lectures, concerts, and symposia.
Created by Steve Geppi, the founder of Diamond Comic Distributors, Geppi's Entertainment Museum traces the evolution of American popular culture from the late 1700s to today with nearly 6,000 artifacts such as comics, dolls, and games. Along with rotating special exhibitions, the museum's permanent galleries each dedicate themselves to a specific period or medium. Rekindle your flame with favorite cultural characters such as Batman, Mickey Mouse, and Barbie as you place them in historical context via the museum's massive memorabilia-based timeline. Geppi's Entertainment Museum further enriches students' cultural and historical savvy on educational tours that examine pop culture in wartime or suggest preservation and pickling methods for first-time collectors.