Pop culture museum to open in Baltimore

Venture will display entrepreneur's collection of cartoons, toys and other memorabilia


There will soon be a new intersection of sports and pop culture in Baltimore.

Yellow Kid, Batman and Mickey Mouse will be there, along with all their cartoon friends, because comic entrepreneur Steve Geppi is finally building his museum.

For years, people have told Geppi to expand his Diamond International Galleries of pop culture, replete with historic cartoon art, so that everyone could enjoy the characters America grew up with.

Geppi, a part-owner of the Orioles and publisher of Baltimore magazine, decided that now was a good time.

Scheduled to open on July 4, Geppi's Entertainment Museum is under construction. The 16,000-square-foot museum will be on the second and third floors of Camden Station next to Oriole Park in downtown Baltimore, above the Sports Legends at Camden Yards museum.

"It's an opportunity for us to say, `Here is what you just saw over the last 100 years,'" Geppi said.

The museum will chronicle American history through pop culture by displaying an array of toys, collectibles, cartoons and other items. Wendy Kelman, the museum's executive director, said visitors will be able to create their own comics.

The museum is being designed by Baltimore architecture firm Cho Benn Holback and Associates. The displays are being designed by the architects and Mark Ward and Associates.

In the first room, the central theme will be the Brownies, which were created in 1883 and were the first comic characters to market goods. The characters, created by Palmer Cox, were used to illustrate Kodak's Brownie camera.

The exhibits will be divided into different historical periods: Brownies, Yellow Kid, Mickey Mouse and Superman, Howdy Doody, Batman and Star Wars. There will also be an exhibit room that will rotate shows on artists or movements.

"It's going to hit everyone at a different level," Kelman said. One section will be devoted to the Beatles.

"Comic art permeates a great many aspects of our culture and a lot of people aren't aware of that fact," said David Glanzer, the marketing and public relations director for Comic-Con International, an arts organization.

Geppi doesn't know how many pieces of memorabilia he owns. "Count everything?" he said. "My collection is in the tens of thousands of exceptional pieces, all of which would never fit into this building."

Geppi said his other businesses have given him unparalleled access to collectibles. Along with other companies, Geppi owns Diamond Comic Distributors, Gemstone Publishing Inc., Diamond International Galleries and Geppi's Memorabilia Roadshow. His company distributes DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics. The company also owns the rights to produce Disney character comic books in the U.S.

At his Timonium headquarters, Geppi displays some of the pieces that will be moved to the museum. These galleries are open to the public by appointment. In the new museum, the public will have open access to the historic pieces.

In a locked room, thousands of published comic books line the walls. The new museum will have a library with 1,000 comic books.

Geppi's Entertainment Museum will join several other cartoon museums around the country, including the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, which has an average of 30,000 visitors a year.

There are also several museums in New York City, including the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art. The National Cartoon Museum is set to open soon with its new name in a new location, the Empire State Building. The museum was founded in 1974 by legendary Beetle Bailey cartoonist Mort Walker.


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