What & Why: Collecting At the Maryland Historical Society

What & Why: Collecting
At the Maryland Historical Society 

Mark Letzer
From the desk of
Mark B. Letzer

Volume 5 Issue 6
June, 2016

Dear Reader,

Greetings from Monument Street! Spring certainly disappeared overnight and threw us directly into a hot summer season! While the school year is drawing to a close with our student visitors, we are preparing for a busy summer. On June 29 we will hold our Annual Meeting at 6:00pm which is free to all members of the society. We will also open a brand new exhibition called What & Why? Collecting at the Maryland Historical Society. This exhibition will showcase over 50 items donated to the society over the last five years. The items range from a World War I uniform, paintings, an illuminated sign from the now defunct Club Hippo as well as the newest addition to the collection, Eubie Blake's practice pianos. This exhibition will allow visitors to understand the breadth of our collection, which includes millions of manuscripts, books and photographs and thousands of objects. We hope to see you there!

Mark Your Calendars for
Maryland Historical Society's
Annual Meeting

Annual Meeting
Join us on Wednesday, June 29 from 6:00-7:30 PM for our Annual Meeting and the opening of our newest exhibition, What & Why? Collecting at the Maryland Historical Society. A light reception will follow.

  • Opening of the new exhibition, What & Why? Collecting at the Maryland Historical Society, which highlights recent acquisitions to the collection
  • Civil Rights exhibition presented by local area students participating in the SeaRCH program
  • Recognition of scholarship and annual award recipients
  • Special acknowledgement of long-time Maryland Historical Society members
Ticketing and Further Information:
The Annual Meeting is FREE for MdHS Members; $10/nonmembers.
Click here to register.


What and Why

Sign from the Hippo, club formerly on Charles and Eager Streets, Baltimore, 1980s, MdHS, Gift of Mr. Charles Bower, 2015.19
Touring the Maryland Historical Society's galleries, you discover a broad range of objects from paintings to textiles, but have you ever wondered how these came to be in the museum's collection? The "what" of an object often becomes obvious after looking at it or reading about its history, but why the object was given often remains unstated.

The stories behind many donations are touching and important to the object's history. Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch says she is privileged to work directly with donors and learn the "why" from them. "This exhibition explores not only what MdHS has been collecting for the past five years, but the stories behind why donors share their possessions with us," she says.

"The range of what we collect is very broad - from 18th century portraits to objects from the Baltimore Uprising of 2015 - because we strive to represent the fullest possible picture of Maryland's history from first settlement to the present. Donors are motivated by many reasons when they give an object or objects to the museum and each donor has a special story to tell."

Eubie Blake Piano
L2016.1.2 Wurlitzer folding reed organ that belonged to James Hubert "Eubie" Blake (1887-1983). Not dated. Made by Wurlitzer, Chicago. Museum Department. Gift of Elliott Hoffman.
All acquisitions to the museum collection go through a vigorous vetting process by the Museum Committee, the members of which review the proposed acquisitions as they relate to the museum's Collections Management Policy. The primary assessment that occurs before an object is even brought to the committee is how this object or objects relate(s) to Maryland history. Each object's condition is thoroughly evaluated as well as its relevance to the collections already at the museum. Does this gift fill a gap in the collection? Does this object enhance existing holdings? Will this object be readily exhibited and fit into our interpretive mission? These are just a few questions that are considered. After their Museum Committee recommends the object(s) for accession, their acquisition is subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees. Although this process may stretch over several months, it is a crucial step in ensuring that the museum's collection continues to meet MdHS's mission, "to collect, preserve and interpret the history of Maryland." With collections storage space at a premium, judicious collecting is imperative!

These images are just a glimpse of the objects that are featured in MdHS's newest exhibition, What & Why? Collecting at the Maryland Historical Society. We hope you will check it out!

A Special Event: 'LZ Maryland,'
Part of MPT Salutes Vietnam Veterans


The Maryland Historical Society and Maryland Public Television honors the men and women who served during the Vietnam War with Maryland Public Television's special event, LZ Maryland. This weekend event will honor Vietnam veterans as they gather together with family, friends, and a grateful public on June 18 and 19th at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

"LZ" is for "landing zone," a place of safety. It's fitting that MPT salutes Maryland's Vietnam-era veterans here where their roots are planted. Those in conflict knew that an LZ was a safe, clear, and ready place for helicopters to land without harm. MPT will make LZ Maryland reflect the same safety.

The two-day event includes: a Tribute Ceremony, where tens of thousands of people from Maryland and mid-Atlantic states are expected to attend in order to salute and honor Maryland's Vietnam-era veterans. This event, on Saturday evening, will feature the presentation of colors, the national anthem, presentations, music, heartfelt sentiments of appreciation, and much more.

In addition, there will be an honor ride with hundreds of members of veteran motorcycle organizations, a family zone, a basic training course, and much, much more.

In May, MPT aired Maryland Vietnam War Stories, a stirring documentary comprised of three hours of dramatic television as nearly 100 Maryland-area veterans told the story of the war in their own words.

The MPT production team met more than 250 veterans from all military branches during 20 listening sessions conducted between 2012 and 2015. MPT has arranged for all footage to be permanently archived at the Maryland Historical Society and the U.S. Library of Congress.

For more details about LZ Maryland and the Maryland Vietnam War Stories documentary, visit this link.

Jazz Cocktail Party Was a Smash Hit!

Jazz Party

In May, we welcomed over 100 guests to our Jazz Cocktail Party featuring a sneak peek at the Eubie Blake practice piano recently donated by his entertainment lawyer, Elliott Hoffman.  Click here for a gallery of images - we are planning more evenings like this in the coming months, so stay tuned!

What's New At Our Museum Store?

Black necked stilt

This beautiful hand-carved Nesting Black-Necked Stilt is our June featured consignment item! With a price of just $75, it makes the perfect gift for the outdoor enthusiast in your family.

Visit our Museum Store today, it's open Wednesday-Saturday 10 am-5 pm and Sunday noon-5 pm. We thank you for your support!

Support the Annual Fund!

The Annual Fund Campaign is a perfect time to support Maryland History!

Check out the video below to watch our staff reading heart felt thank-you letters received from students and educators because of generous supporters like you.

Your gift will help support the Museum and Library, Education programs, scholarly publications and more!

Private donations are critical to our mission and success. Thank you for your support!

Click to play

Click Here to Donate 

Like History Alive? Share Us With a Friend!...

I hope you're enjoying our monthly History Alive! E-newsletter. If you have a friend or family member who might enjoy receiving up-to-the-minute news and information about our events and exhibitions (and, of course, our trivia questions), simply send them this link: www.mdhs.org/signup

And they can sign up!

Speaking of Trivia...

Trivia Time!

Congratulations to everyone who correctly answered last month's question! The small town on the lower Eastern Shore that has been dubbed the "Seafood Capital of the World" is Crisfield, Maryland.

Ready for this month's question?

This early 20th century architect was born in Chicago, but spent his career in Baltimore. Having already established a career working in other cities, the rebuilding effort spurred by the Great Baltimore Fire brought him to Maryland in 1904. He designed many significant structures in the city, including the iconic Recreational Pier in Fells Point that is currently being restored into a hotel. The stunning Saint Philip & James Catholic Church on Charles Street is regarded as his crowning achievement.

Question: Name that Architect!

Email us your answer, and you, too, could win a prize! Best of luck.

Until next month,

Mark Letzer

Mark B. Letzer
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.