New museum could help, not compete

December 20, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

An African-American history museum proposed for the Inner Harbor of Baltimore would benefit Annapolis' Banneker-Douglass Museum, relieving the pressure on it as the only of its kind in the state.

Creation of the new museum will allow the 10-year-old Banneker-Douglass Museum on Franklin Street to focus narrowly military, professional and religious life, said Ronald Sharps, executive director of the Maryland Commission on African-American History and Culture.

That's important because space at Banneker-Douglass is cramped into about 10,000 square feet in a building that once housed the Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church on Franklin Street.

Originally, museum officials had hoped the 10-year-old Annapolis museum could be expanded to satisfy its need for additional office, storage and exhibit space.

That hope was dashed by the county's plans to expand the Anne Arundel County Courthouse, which lies just to the rear of the 118-year-old church, said Mr. Sharps, who is both executive director of Banneker-Douglass and an organizer of the Baltimore museum.

Although plans still exist to expand Banneker-Douglass by building a 20,000-square-foot wing beside the church, Mr. Sharps said, expansion also is limited by the historic nature of the building.

Climate control, particularly control over humidity, is vital for a museum and next to impossible in a historic building, he said.

Staff at the Banneker-Douglass probably will shrink, from seven to five, with the opening of the Baltimore museum.

Much of the work now done at Banneker-Douglass will be done at the Inner Harbor, Mr. Sharps said.

Because of its larger size and location, the Baltimore museum could generate more interest in the field and accommodate more visitors, Mr. Sharps said.

Ideally, he said, tour groups who want more could see both museums.

The $2.5 million expansion of Banneker-Douglass is scheduled to follow completion of the Baltimore facility and would be part of the state funding package, Mr. Sharps said.

The state, which has a 99-year lease with the county for the church, is negotiating to lease county-owned land next door for the expansion.

A $150,000 renovation of the church, including the repair of exterior bricks and mortar, should be complete this spring, Mr. Sharps said.

Because the church is so close to the courthouse -- 8 to 10 feet at the closet point -- the renovations must be coordinated with the courthouse expansion, which could begin this spring, he said.

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