'The Power of Story' and Our Spring Events Preview

The Power of Story

From the desk of
Burt Kummerow

Volume 2 Issue 1

January 11, 2013

The American museum world is coming to Maryland in 2013! During a busy May weekend that includes the Preakness and a visit from the New York Yankees at Camden Yards, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is welcoming over 6,000 museum professionals to its annual conference at Baltimore's Convention Center. The city's thriving museum world, history and arts destinations alike, will be putting on our best bib and tucker for our colleagues from all over the country.

Many around here will be talking up the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The dramatic history of those two events fits well into the basic theme of the AAM Conference, the "Power of Story."

The Maryland Historical Society has challenged our colleagues in the Greater Baltimore History Alliance to find their own stories. It is truly amazing to sit around a table and listen to our friends from local history museums spinning tales about favorite ancestors. We're all convinced that these stories make "History Alive" for the present generation.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte
"Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte," Firmin Massot, 1823, MdHS, XX.5.69.

Let's take one amazing story that we will be promoting in 2013 here at 201 W. Monument Street. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was one of the femme fatales of the War of 1812 generation.

As a gorgeous 18-year-old, Betsy set the gossipmongers all atwitter with her revealing empire dresses at local society events. Her marriage to Napoleon Bonaparte's young brother Jerome became an international drama. Even at ninety-four, Betsy was still making news as one of America's richest women.

With over 800 objects and reams of documents, the Maryland Historical Society is the official keeper of Betsy's memory. This will be our Year of Betsy with a major exhibit, entitled "Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Quest for an Imperial Legacy" that will open on June 9.

We are also hosting a special exhibit preview and Bonaparte Ball on June 8 - Look for our Save the Date invitation to arrive in your mailbox in early February.

In addition to our Betsy Bonaparte exhibition, we have put together a set of programs this spring that cover ground from 1812 through the Civil Rights Movement. It is up to us to keep these fascinating stories alive for our children. I encourage you to join us.

Spring Events At MdHS:
February 2013

"Washington at Dorchester Heights," Jane Stuart, 1777, MdHS, 1918.8.1

Our annual Francis Scott Key Lecture series begins on Thursday, February 7th at 6 pm with a fascinating lecture about "The Fine Art of Portraying George Washington" by Carol Borchert Cadou.

Cadou is the Senior Curator and VP of Collections for George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. In addition to discussing several important paintings of Washington in the Maryland Historical Society Collection, Ms. Cadou will offer a glimpse into the history and the preservation of the Washington Estate and its rich collection of fine and decorative arts.

Tickets are $40 per lecture, or $175 for the complete Francis Scott Key Lecture series (couples series for $300). See our website for more information and to register. Call 410-685-3750 Ext. 399 for details.  

'For All the World to Hear:'
Stories from the Struggle for Civil Rights

On July 4, 1963, Lu Coleman, convinced her husband that instead of family canoeing trip, how about they take their three young children to Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Woodlawn? But Coleman didn't want them to go there just for the rides. They went as part of protest march. The Park had been a center of controversy for years because of its "whites only" admissions policy.

For All the World to Hear
Pictured: Janice Grant, Woody Grant, Patricia Brown Leak
Photo: Mieke Gentis

On Tuesday, February 12 from 6-8 pm, we are fortunate to present a dynamic oral history performance from 10 Baltimore area seniors, including Coleman, who had first-hand experience with the Civil Rights Movement. The individuals you will hear from put themselves on the line for freedom demonstrating extraordinary character and courage.

Following their live performance, artistic director Harriet Lynn will lead a mediated, interactive audience discussion.

This is the first part of an oral history project that will be held at sites around Baltimore, including libraries, college campuses and Baltimore area schools. A companion exhibit, entitled "For All the World to See" is on view at UMBC's Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture through March 10, 2013. You can also see the online exhibit through this link.

The event is be free and open to the public. To register, visit our website, or call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

For All the World to Hear is organized by UMBC's Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture, and made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.   

Free Trade and Sailors' Rights

Vigilant of Baltimore
"Vigilant of Baltimore," 1803, Maryland Historical Society, M1975.3.2

On Friday, February 22nd at 7:30 pm, join Paul Gilje, the George Lynn Cross Research Professor at the University of Oklahoma, as he presents his pioneering research on the question of sailors' rights during the War of 1812. His lecture will be based on the research behind his forthcoming book, Free Trade and Sailor's Rights.

Book Description:

On July 2, 1812, Captain David Porter raised a banner on the USS Essex proclaiming "A free trade and sailors rights," thus creating a political slogan that explained the War of 1812. Free trade demanded the protection of American commerce, while sailors' rights insisted that the British end the impressment of seamen from American ships. Repeated for decades in Congress and in taverns, the slogan reminds us today that our second war with Great Britain was not a mistake. It was a contest for the ideals of the American Revolution bringing together both the high culture of the Enlightenment to establish a new political economy and the low culture of the common folk to assert the equality of humankind. Understanding the War of 1812 and the motto that came to explain it - free trade and sailors' rights - allows us to better comprehend the origins of the American nation.

This is a free event, and light refreshments will be served. To register, visit our website or call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377 

'Bootleggers Bash' Prohibition Party
Sponsored by the MdHS Young Defenders

"H.L. Mencken Celebrates Repeal at the Hotel Rennert," December 1933, Maryland Historical Society, [PVF] (Note: Formerly designated as Z24.1059 & Z24.1679)

On Saturday, February 23rd from 9 pm -1 am: Rub shoulders with bootleggers and flappers at a "speakeasy-style" evening of special Prohibition cocktails, dancing, and a few surprises! 1920s attire is encouraged.

Jazzy sounds from the great  Swingin Swamis will be on hand - and trust me, if you've never heard them before, you're in for a treat! (You can listen to a sample here)

This event will be held at a top-secret location (to be revealed on our Facebook Page at the end of the month!), and it is organized by The Maryland Historical Society's Young Defenders, which aims to usher in a new generation of stewards for our vital institution. All proceeds benefit the Maryland Historical Society. There will be also free valet parking.

Tickets are $55 for MdHS Members, $65 for nonmembers in advance and $75 at the door. We expect tickets to sell out; secure yours by visiting our website or calling 410-685-3750 Ext. 399.  

March 2013 Events:
"These gems have life in them"
The Jewelry Collection at the Maryland Historical Society

Bracelet, circa 1850-1865, probably Scottish, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Ellen Channing Day Bonaparte, xx.5.276

The agate and silver link bracelet in the photograph at right is part of the Bonaparte Collection. On Thursday, March 7th at 6pm, Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch will tell the story of Baltimore's most intriguing 19th Century woman, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, through her jewels.

Although we do not know who in Betsy's family owned this bracelet, it would have been the height of fashion in the 1850s and 1860s. When Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral Castle in 1848, proclaiming her love of the Scottish countryside, designers followed her cue and created Celtic-style jewelry like this example. The bracelet's charm holds a lock of blonde hair which may have belonged to donor Ellen Channing Day.

This event is part of the Francis Scott Key Lecture Series. Tickets are $40 per lecture, or $175 for the complete series (couples series for $300). See our website for more information and to register. Call 410-685-3750 Ext. 399.  

Road to Emancipation:
Reflections on Slavery and Emancipation

"Harriet Tubman," Maryland Historical Society, Z24-1136

On Thursday, March 14th at 6 pm, we will begin a two-year journey walking the road to emancipation in Maryland. To slaves in Maryland, the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation was just out of reach - as a state loyal to the union, Maryland slaves were not included in the promised freedom of January, 1863.

It took almost two years before slaves in Maryland were officially freed from bondage. The last years of the Civil War were an intense, distressing, and liberating time that we want to truly understand by walking in the footsteps of those who struggled each day to achieve the promise of freedom and the many roads they took to get there.

Reflection on Slavery and Emancipation is the first of a series of programs that will start us on this road. Please join historians Kate Larson, author of Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, Steve Whitman, author of Challenging Slavery in Maryland and Antietam 1862: Gateway to Emancipation, and archivist Chris Haley, director of the Legacy of Slavery project at the Maryland State Archives.

Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers; visit our website to register or call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

This program is organized in partnership with Freedman and Southern Society Project at UMD College Park and the National Park Service - Hampton National Historic Site.

Celebrate Maryland Day
At MdHS' France Hall

Join us for a special event in honor of the 1634 founding of Maryland, featuring a fascinating presentation of the latest discoveries regarding our 17th century ancestors by Dr. Henry Miller, Director of Research at Historic St. Mary's City. We'll meet in France Hall, which is a part of our MdHS museum complex.

Tickets are $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers; signup by calling 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

April 2013 Events
"Richard Caton Woodville:
Baltimore's Genius of the 19th Century"

"Thomas Edmondson," Richard Caton Woodville, 1845, Maryland Historical Society, 1984-6

Presented by Joy Peterson Heyrman, Deputy Director for Development and exhibition curator of New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville, The Walters Art Museum.

Baltimore-born and European-trained Woodville (1825-55) depicted hot-button issues in 1840's American society, including war, the politics of Manifest Destiny and new technologies such as the telegraph.

"While part of a vibrant artistic community in Dusseldorf (Germany), Woodville observed the democratic rebellions of late 1840s Europe," said Heyrman. "Woodville reacted to this environment, creating some of his most iconic works, including Politics in an Oyster House (1848) and War News from Mexico (1848)."

This event is part of the Francis Scott Key Lecture Series. Tickets are $40 per lecture, or $175 for the complete Francis Scott Key Lecture series (couples series for $300). See our website for more information and to register. Call 410-685-3750 Ext. 399 for details.

Beyond Brick and Mortar:
Discovering Baltimore's Architectural Heritage  

Furlong Library
H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society

On Saturday, April 20th at 9 am, celebrate American Library Week at MdHS! Do you live or work in Baltimore? Interested in the buildings of the city? Visit the Maryland Historical Society and learn how to fully utilize the library's resources.

Senior Reference Librarian, Francis O'Neill, will walk participants through search strategies and introduce the Passano file - the richest resource for Baltimore structures in the city! Then, Special Collections Librarian, Eben Dennis, will provide tips on how to find the needle in the haystack.

See if we can find an original photograph of your building or block from the 900,000+ photographs in our collection! Light refreshments will be provided.

This program is free for members; $10 for nonmembers. To register, call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

May 2013 Events:
'Baltimore Archives Alive!'
Baltimore City Historical Society's Annual Workshop

On Friday, May 3rd from 8:30 am-1 pm: Learn about the revitalization of the Baltimore City Archives!

By the turn of the 21st century Baltimore City's Archives had fallen into desuetude, disorganization, and decay. These vital records had been placed in leaking firetrap of a warehouse that posed a clear and present danger to both papers themselves and the intrepid researchers who use them.

But then in June 2010, things changed. Under the good auspices of the Maryland State Archives the records have been moved to a new and adequate storage facility. A professional staff is placing indexed images of archival records on line where they may be digitally accessed. Researchers are once again welcomed. The Baltimore City Archives are alive!

The conference on May 3, 2013 will celebrate this revitalization. Members of the Archive staff will speak as to the nature of the collection and it value, and a cross section of active researchers will describe their methods and discoveries in the search for the private history of families and the public history of Baltimore.

This is a free event; register by calling 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

Torn Asunder - Civil War Scenes  

"The Rebel Army Crossing the Fords of the Potomac," Harper & Brothers, Publisher, September 27, 1862, The Maryland Historical Society, Medium Prints

In our fifth year of partnership with the Baltimore School for the Arts and our second year with the National Park Service, we are focusing on bringing the post-Antietam Civil War story to life.

The scenes will explore the issues of emancipation, war on the home front, and the effects of war. There will be seven performances of the scenes starting on Friday, April 26 at a variety of sites including Hampton National Historic Site, two Baltimore city schools, and the Reginald Lewis Museum. The performance at MdHS takes place on Friday, May 3 at 6 pm and is a free event. Reception to follow.  

June 2013 Events:
Bonaparte Ball  

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

On Saturday, June 8th:  Join us at the Garrett Jacobs Mansion for a spectacular event to celebrate the opening of the exhibition, "Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Quest for an Imperial Legacy."  

Enjoy a decadent evening of dancing, drink, and merriment, as we toast the "Belle of Baltimore." Proceeds will benefit the Maryland Historical Society.

Ticket price: $250 per guest. Register by calling 410-685-3750 Ext. 399.   



The Star Spangled Banner's Trip to Frederick!

On Flag Day, Friday, June 14th, we invite you to be a part of a historic moment as the Star Spangled Banner manuscript makes a triumphant trip to Frederick, the site of Francis Scott Key's final resting place.

For more information, call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

Members-Only Event
Curator's Tour of Betsy Bonaparte: An Imperial Legacy

On Thursday, June 20th at 6pm, celebrate the opening of the new and glamorous exhibition, "Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Quest for an Imperial Legacy." Members will enjoy an exclusive curator-led tour of the gallery, which boasts examples of the exquisite fashions of the mid-1800s and opulent objects from the MdHS collection and beyond.

This event is free for members. Sign up by calling 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

Want to be a MdHS Ambassador?

Social Toaster
Courtesy SocialToaster

We've recently partnered with Social Toaster, an online media group based in Baltimore, to share news, updates, and events about The Maryland Historical Society online.

So if you enjoy surfing the Web, have Friends on Facebook and Tweet on Twitter, here's your chance to do some good for our Society while you're at it!

Simply sign up to be a Social Toaster Ambassador, then we'll send you links that you can share on your Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and/or LinkedIn profiles - once or twice a month.

The Baltimore Ravens and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra have seen much success with this program, and we're excited to begin, too. Here is the link you can use to sign up:  


The instructions to get started are easy:
Step 1: Click "Connect Now"
Step 2: Click on a social network (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, or Twitter)
Step 3: Authorize the social network and application.
Step 4: Click "Share" to share with your friends that you just signed up, or click "Skip" to skip this step
Step 5: Click "Continue." Congratulations, you're done! Stay tuned for MDHS news to share to your social networks.

We thank you for your help and support!

Trivia Time!

Winners of this month's question will receive a copy of an audio CD of Selections from "Your Maryland," the radio spots featured on WYPR!

Ready for our question?  

Question: This institution was the first place in Maryland to use gas lighting. Its founder eventually started a municipal gas lighting system, making Baltimore the first American city to have gas streetlighting. Name that place!

Email us your answer, and best of luck!

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

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.