Taking guests to specialized museums can turn into a fascinating venture SITES TO BEHOLD

December 28, 1991|By Carleton Jones

A photo caption accompanying a Dec. 28 article on Maryland museums should have identified the statue at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum as Mother Mary Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

* The Sun regrets the error.

So, they've already seen the National Aquarium, the Walters and the Baltimore Museum of Art. And they want to try something different. Where else can you possibly take your out-of-town friends and relatives who've come to visit for the holidays?

There's much more to choose from than you might imagine. The good old Yellow Pages lists 35 museums in the area.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

You can see things around town even the Smithsonian does not have -- especially in the smaller and lesser-known specialized emporiums of the past. It's wise to call first since opening hours vary with the season.

One of the local specialties happens to be fire museums, perhaps helped on by memories of February, 1904 when the whole downtown became a cindery shell of destruction.

In Lutherville, fire buffs can see 18,000 square feet of what is America's second largest fire equipment show (Phoenix, Ariz., for some reason is No. 1). Downtown, there's one of the world's oldest museums devoted to firefighting history and lore.

The Fire Museum of Maryland in the county will have special Christmas garden displays today and tomorrow, then go into a winter shutdown, to reopen in May.

Christmas gardens for the young and old decorate many an area firehouse, and one of these relics of eastern holiday celebrations will also be on display tomorrow between 1 and 4 p.m. at the historic Peale Museum downtown on Holliday Street with admission from 75 cents to $1.75 ("The kids will get to run the trains," says a staffer for the museum.)

Another big Christmastime show, staged daily from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., is the running of the "old fashioned train garden" at Ellicott City's cozy B&O railroad station museum.

For a cheery view of Christmas in the good old days, Hampton National Historic site in Towson, the largest and among the most beautiful of Maryland Colonial mansions, is laden with gorgeous seasonal decorations and open daily through Tuesday.

On Monday at 9 a.m., the Baltimore Equitable Insurance museum will open for regular visits through 4 p.m. weekdays, New Year's Day excepted, with a unique collection of pre-Civil War city memorabilia, including one of the rifles that were used in the historic riot of April 19, 1861. The black heritage and the 19th century way of life are explored in small museum settings that dot the Maryland area.

"Great Blacks in Wax," an in-depth, dramatic exploration of black achievements in American life, housed in a converted east side firehouse, is one of the major sites for studying the story of African-American personalities in realistic re-creations. Black art as well as black history is a keynote at Baltimore's Black American Museum in the northeast section of the city. A multimedia show of the 1960's battle against segregation is a major segment of the display, which also includes exhibits of African-American artists.

Time-lock museum settings that take you back to another day include downtown's 1840 House, a unit of the Baltimore City Life Museums system, whose fascinating basement scullery is an eye opening to the world of 19th century cuisine.

Other trips back in time include Towson's Hampton mansion or the Cole Pharmacy Museum downtown with its artifacts of the golden days of 19th century medicinals. (The latter may be the only museum in the United States dedicated to a woman medical pioneer.)

Baltimore as a trailblazing center for such American-born industries as canning, printing, steel making, aviation manufacture and other major enterprises is showcased in the harbor's Baltimore Museum of Industry on Key Highway in South Baltimore.

Business history is illuminated, too, by a current dual exhibit at the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland in Oldtown. These assemblies chart both the Jewish contribution to the development of the garment industry and the contribution of Jewish immigrants of the 19th century and turn of the century years.

On a practical note, there's also the underground skeleton of Baltimore, with its vast tunnels and utility conduits that service 1.5 million inhabitants and is revealed in the unusual Baltimore Public Works Museum in the inner harbor.

Sports history of the city is revered at the Babe Ruth Museum near the city's new Camden Park stadium, a four-building complex that pays tribute to the greatest of all hitters and to the near century-old luster of the Baltimore Orioles.

Here are details about various museum site openings:

The Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., ((410) 727-1539) Open daily from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Closed New Year's Day. Admission $4 adults, $1.50 for kids.

B&O Ellicott City Railroad Station Museum, 2711 Maryland Ave. at Main Street, Ellicott City, ((410) 461-1944). Open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Tuesday. Admission $3 adults, $2 for seniors and $1 for children 5 to 12.

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