The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) is not only one of Baltimore’s most legendary attractions, but also the state’s oldest continuously operating cultural institution. Founded in 1844, MdHS remains the state’s premier historical institution, and continues to collect, preserve and interpret remnants of Maryland’s history and heritage.
Housing more than 350,000 objects and seven million books and documents from pre-settlement days to the present, MdHS seeks to highlight the past, lend perspective to the present and inform the future through its collections. It serves thousands of visitors annually – including students and teachers state-wide – through its museum, library, press (including a quarterly journal, newsletter and blog) and educational programs.
The Maryland Historical Society, which occupies an entire city block in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, contains major exhibitions of famous Maryland paintings, silver, furniture and textiles, maritime history, children’s toys and more – objects that represent virtually every aspect of the state’s history and life.
Perhaps the most popular and awe-inspiring object in the museum’s collection is the original, hand-written manuscript of Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Along with this national icon, the site’s Star-Spangled Banner Gallery showcases paintings and artifacts that tell the story of the Battle of Baltimore and the War of 1812. The gallery also features a changing selection of items from the MdHS library’s Star-Spangled Banner sheet music collection. “The Star-Spangled Banner. A Patriotic Song,” published by Carr Music Store in Baltimore in 1814, is currently on display in the gallery. It is one of the few remaining copies of the first edition of the poem set to music we know as our national anthem.
In addition to its core exhibitions, the MdHS is currently hosting two that coincide with the state and city-wide celebration of the 200th anniversary of the flag and our national anthem, or Baltimore’s Star-Spangled Summer. “In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland during the War of 1812” is the state’s largest display devoted to the War of 1812 and the era. The ongoing exhibition showcases American and British military uniforms and weapons, as well as more than 150 related artifacts, paintings, textiles and ship models. Its newest component is an interactive, computer-generated map of 1812-era Baltimore developed by the Imaging Resource Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and Her Quest for an Imperial Legacy” illustrates the “two worlds” of France and America that Elizabeth, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger brother Jerome and one of the femme fatales of the War of 1812 generation, inhabited. It showcases many of her belongings, including one of her “scandalous” dresses in the French-style. The exhibition is on display through June 2015. The Maryland Historical Society is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday (museum only). Experience the Maryland Historical Society and other great Baltimore historical attractions with the Star-Spangled Banner Pass, which can be purchased here.