The Annapolis City Council recently agreed to spend $45,000 to decorate the council chambers with three murals depicting scenes from the city's history.
The paintings by city artist Lee Boynton will show Gov. Francis Nicholson laying out the street plan in 1695, Gov. John Seymour reading the charter to the townspeople in 1708 and the fifth Lord Baltimore arriving at the City Dock from England in 1733.
The idea for the murals grew out of the "Annapolis 300" celebration that is marking the tricentennial of the city's selection as the state capital. Members of the mayoral committee figured that the paintings not only would be a nice commemorative for the anniversary, but that they would help teach school children about the city's history when they visit City Hall.
It was a fine idea, but the murals selected by the committee focus on a narrow span of time in the town's diverse heritage.
All of the scenes to be painted for the "Annapolis 300" celebration center on the actions of the English gentry in Annapolis' first half-century. None is bad or inaccurate, but the three fail to do justice to the city's rich history since then. How about a mural of Kunta Kinte arriving at the City Dock in chains in 1758? Or Anne St. Clair Wright staring down the bulldozers as Anne Arundel County crews attempt to tear down Mount Moriah Church? Annapolis school children -- and residents for that matter -- should understand that the lessons of history aren't confined to the actions of rich Englishmen in powdered wigs and knee britches.
The committee says that the murals are but the first of what they hope will be a series of paintings depicting the city's history. Presumably women and blacks could be the focus of subsequent paintings. But when? Will later paintings be too late for the anniversary celebration?
Annapolis Mayor Alfred Hopkins has pledged to try to find private donations to reimburse the taxpayers for the murals, but the funding is beside the point. Wherever the money comes from, the paintings still will be displayed in City Hall and ought to represent a more comprehensive picture of Annapolis' history.
This is a project that needs to go back to the drawing board.