Lewis museum opening pushed to 2005

Delay will provide more publicity time

July 21, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Opening day for the city's new museum devoted to African-American history has been pushed back to at least March 2005, to give contractors more time to install exhibits and work on the building's interior space, as well as to give local tourism officials more advance time to promote the facility.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will open in early 2005 "to leverage [Baltimore Area Convention and Visitor Association] promotions, install a major special exhibition and complete the installation of the museum's permanent exhibits, collections and public resource centers," the museum's executive director, Sandy Bellamy, said in a statement.

Officials had hoped to open the museum, planned as the second largest in the country devoted to African-American history, by the end of this year. But some minor construction delays - completion of the building, at the corner of Pratt and President streets, is about a month behind schedule - and other factors have pushed back the opening, said museum spokeswoman Victoria Stinson.

"We did get a pretty wet rainy season, and then there was that huge snow," Stinson said. "With construction, you just can never really know for sure."

The building's exterior is essentially complete, Stinson said, but the interior must also be finished before installation of artifacts, exhibits and wall panels can begin. An outside contractor still must be approved for that work by the state's board of public works, Stinson said.

Once completed, the museum will include 82,000 square feet of exhibit space (only Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History will be bigger). It will be named for Lewis, the late Baltimore-born philanthropist and business leader, whose foundation donated $5 million to the project.

Displays and research materials at the museum will be tied to a curriculum for grades 4 through 8, put together by the state Department of Education. The curriculum includes class study and field trips.

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