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 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 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.
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. Visitors can take a gander at the museum’s 100,000-object collection—including an 1850s shipyard bell and an 1820s Acorn printing press—and 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, as well as the 1937 Mini-Mariner, a prototype for the WWII flying boat bomber, two pieces of aquatic history more inspirational than a sailor's duffle filled with Popeye quotes.
Featured in the Baltimore Sun, owner Tim McFadden teaches neophytes to design and shape seasonal blown-glass ornaments in hands-on workshops. Duos and quartets of apprentices assemble by a blazing forge to help inflate glass balloons that soon harden into icicle ornaments, pendants, or single-use snowball cores. One-of-a-kind pieces are available to take home the following day.