Our History, Our Strength

"History is not just facts, but the atmosphere, the sense of place, the drama of what occurred."

From the desk of
Burt Kummerow

Volume 1 Issue

December 12, 2012

Dear Reader,

Some among us are sounding an alarm. Americans are in danger of losing their collective memory. Our nation is becoming historically illiterate. Less and less of us know or even care that George Washington was our first president and Abraham Lincoln led the Union during the Civil War.

Let's test your knowledge of Maryland history for a moment. Do you know the name of Maryland's founding family? Can you describe why the Maryland flag has two separate fields; one, black and gold and the other red and white? Do you know which state owns the Potomac River and why? Can you name the war, the battle and the hill where Maryland soldiers fought directly against each other? Do you know the Maryland city that was capital of the United States and can you name the important events that happened in that city while it was capital?*

"War Memorial Sculpture with City Hall in Background," Bodine. 1943, MdHS, B64-9.

History is a bulwark of our free society. Without it, we are trapped in the here and now. Informed and connected citizens are the lifeblood of a democracy. They need to know where our country has been and what our ancestors can teach us.

One of the leaders sounding this alarm is the much-celebrated historian David McCullough. He is asking all of us to spring into action. "We need to teach our children what we know. History is a source of strength. It sets high standards for all of us."

My own family history sets a high standard for my generation. After doing relief work in San Francisco after its devastating 1906 earthquake, one of my grandfathers was also with Theodore Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet," a collection of major new U.S. warships that sailed around the world to announce the country's emerging power between 1907 and 1909. My father was a Pearl Harbor survivor and a half dozen of my uncles and aunts had memorable adventures serving in World War Two. We all have ancestors that provide important connections with our past.

It is up to us to keep their fascinating stories alive for our children.

Textile Conservator Julia Dippold

David McCullough has issued a challenge to America. That challenge can evoke forgotten memories that change lives right here in Maryland.

With four centuries of stories in its memory bank, Maryland's history is America's history. Our story is the country's story. At 169 years young, the Maryland Historical Society, one of the nation's most respected history centers, has been telling our state's stories for more than half of U.S. history. The stories not only continue but will multiply at THE Museum and Library of Maryland History.

Our 175th birthday is only 6 years away. We are planning a trio of gifts to celebrate the event. An innovative Four Centuries of Maryland History Exhibit features a host of Maryland stories. A Center for History Education is aimed at every teacher and student in school and every Marylander from pre-school to Elder Hostel's Road Scholars. A ground-breaking, online Maryland Museum without Walls is reaching out to historical institutions and attractions throughout the state and beyond.

Children stand in front of Eubie Blake, Bob Walker, 1981, 1985.29.6

We are blessed with 7 million documents in our library and 350,000 artifacts in our museum. We have award-winning education programs that continue to reach over 50,000 students every year.

We are working closely with partners in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. We have been telling the stories of Maryland with exhibits, programs, dramatic presentations and travelling shows for generations - in fact, The Washington Post designated our In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland in the War of 1812 exhibit as one of their Top 10 Exhibits of 2012. All of these unique assets are poised to meet David McCullough's challenge and re-introduce Maryland and America to their fascinating past.

"Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte", Kinsoen. 1812, MdHS, XX.5.72.

And next year, the Maryland Historical Society will feature one of the Old Line State's best stories. The Baltimore Belle, Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, was one of the first U.S. "fashionistas" and femme fatales.

After marrying Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon's youngest brother, she became an international story and still fascinates today. Our tribute, entitled Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Quest for an Imperial Legacy, will contain a stunning exhibit of Betsy's clothing and jewelry, and it will add strong evidence that the 1812 era is filled with timely and breathtaking drama. The exhibit will open in June, 2013.  

You Can Make a Difference

MdHS Exterior
The Maryland Historical Society

So what can you do to ensure that our historical legacy - our collective memory - remains alive for generations to come? How can you become involved in the Center for Maryland History?

There is one thing you can do: become a member of our Maryland Historical Society. Membership is the most basic and most important form of contribution; it is the cornerstone of all our programs, exhibitions, and publications. Membership provides us with the resources needed to be certain that future generations understand our state's past and have access to the artifacts and documents that connect them to that history, while granting you a front row seat for all the exciting programs and exhibitions we're working on right now.

Memberships make up more than one-third of our entire budget, so the more we receive, the more we can give in preservation and programming.

A few of the benefits of membership include:
* Unlimited free admission to the museum and library, and reduced or free admission to public events
* A special, 35% members-only discount on MdHS Press Publications
* A 10% discount at our Museum Store
* Advance notice of MdHS programs and exhibitions
* And, I am particularly excited to announce that a print subscription to the Maryland Historical Magazine, our quarterly academic journal, is once again included in all levels of membership. New research and discoveries constantly change our understanding of Maryland's past. The magazine brings these developments in scholarship into the homes of our members.

We have different levels of membership to suit all budgets, and best of all, your contribution is 100% tax-deductible. You can even give the gift of membership to a friend or family member - it makes the perfect holiday gift!

Click here to find out more about our membership levels, and learn more about how you can contribute. And bring your family to our Maryland Historical Society. We're located at 201 W. Monument St., right in the heart of Baltimore's historic Mt. Vernon District. You will find beautiful objects, amazing documents and unforgettable stories. Enjoy and Learn!

Until next month,
Burt Sig 2
Burton Kummerow
President, The Maryland Historical Society

*Answers are:
1. The founding family of Maryland was the Calvert Family. George Calvert, the first Baron of Baltimore in Ireland, negotiated the Maryland Colony with King Charles I but it was his two sons, Cecilius and Leonard, who launched the colony. Cecilius, the second Baron of Baltimore stayed in England while his younger brother, Leonard led the settlement as the first governor.
2. Adopted in 1904, Maryland has the only state flag based on English heraldry. The black and gold field represents the Calvert Family, Barons of Baltimore, who founded Maryland. The red and white field, with the cross bottony, represents the Crosslands, the family of George Calvert's mother and grandmother. The Crossland colors and the cross bottony became a favorite of Maryland Confederates as "secessionist colors" during the Civil War. In the 1880s, veterans began flying flags that joined the two fields together as a symbol of reconciliation.
3. Maryland owns the Potomac up to the high water mark on the Virginia side thanks to its 1632 charter given by the King of England. The ownership was verified by two compacts with Virginia, one in 1785 at Mt. Vernon that led to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and the other in 1958.
4. Maryland Union and Confederate forces fought bitterly on Culp's Hill, July 2 & 3, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. A Maryland monument honoring both sides was dedicated on the Gettysburg Battlefield in 1994.
5. Annapolis was the U.S. Capital at the end of the American Revolution in 1783-84. The oldest state house in continuous use was the scene of General George Washington's December 23, 1783, resignation as the Commander of the Continental Army and the U.S. Ratification of the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolution on January 14, 1784.

Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine."

The Society is located at 201 W. Monument Street and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday
from 10 am-5 pm,
and Sunday (museum only) 12 pm-5pm.