For a trip to somewhere fun and educational, your kids will love this cultural site at Ellicott City B and O Railroad Station Museum in Ellicott City.
Parking is plentiful, so visitors can feel free to bring their vehicles.
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Staff Size: 25–50
Parking: Parking garage
Most popular offering: African-American art, history, culture
Pro Tip: $7 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.
Q&A with Helen Yuen, Director Of Marketing
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.
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.
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.