Directors of the nationally recognized jazz museum in Kansas City faced similar problems. That museum was part of a multi-million-dollar renovation of the city's old jazz district around 18th and Vine streets. The permanent exhibition, with its curvilinear and kidney-shaped booths, listening stations, jazz artifacts and interactive recording studio, cost about $3 million to design and put in place. Next door is the Blue Room, a nightclub replicating the look and feel of Kansas City's heyday as an integral part of jazz history.
Rowena Stewart, museum director, says her idea was to create a space that would connect people to the time and place.
"I kept looking for the pieces that would say what it was. I think Baltimore needs to find that piece that connects," says Stewart. "There's a whole era around Eubie Blake that isn't touched, and they need to be looking at that because Baltimore was an integral place for blacks."
Some of Baltimore's legendary names - Blake, drummer Chick Webb, songstress Billie Holiday and Murphy's father, bandleader Cab Calloway - will be featured tomorrow night through videos and piano rolls. Murphy stresses that the center is not going to restrict itself to being a repository for Baltimore's jazz history. Music and arts classes for children are of primary importance. Richard Micherdzinski, who has spent many years on the center's board of directors, hopes it will become a place where city children can fall in love with fine arts.
"I want to see young people have an opportunity to work and have their work displayed and have a chance to perform," he says, looking out a third-floor window that faces Howard Street. "The painting and the works will come out of the sounds and noise of the city. The inspiration will come from out there."
There will be Sunday concerts, gallery space for visual artists. There are grand plans that can only come about through campaigns to raise money and get people through the doors. Publicity is crucial for a venue many might have forgotten.
"In Baltimore, you really have to do that through the churches, the PTA, clubs, social types of clubs," says Murphy. "You can't just put an ad in the newspaper and expect that people, African-American people, will come."
But with tomorrow's event and some steady work, Murphy hopes to overcome those problems and again make the center a prominent part of the city's cultural life.
"We're going to have to do some scuffling," she says. "All of it. It just takes time. But we're anxious to get in here."