New life for museums' pieces

Considered clutter, these odds and ends attract buyers at tent sale

October 29, 2006|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

A 6-by-6-foot yellowing photograph, mounted on sturdy cardboard, sold three times yesterday at Baltimore's first Heritage and Museum Yard Sale, only to come back from the parking lot each time because it didn't fit in any vehicle.

The circa 1940 image of railworkers leaving the Mount Clare shop finally went to a Fells Point antiques dealer, when sale organizers offered to deliver it, rather than return it to storage.

"It was a lot of work to get this stuff here, and we don't want to take it back," said Shawn Herne, curator at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum and yard sale volunteer. "I would rather see things go to people who appreciate them rather than sit in warehouses. It's a great way to give things a second life."

The tent sale at the Baltimore Museum of Industry featured items from about 45 museums in the metropolitan area, done in part to clear out cluttered basements and attics.

"No artifacts," said Abbi Wicklein-Bayne, educator with the Baltimore City Heritage Area Association. "That would be illegal and unethical, but there's lots of museum-quality stuff."

Most big items sold during the six-hour sale, which earned about $3,600 - money that will help the association pay for training, field trips and outreach, she said.

Joe Frank, the new owner of the Mount Clare photo, bought several railroad images and a picture of a crowd swimming near an excursion boat, a scene he immediately recognized.

"I swam there many years ago," he said. "I know it's Tolchester Beach. The boat left out of Fells Point for day trips."

Kevin Thompson, who traveled from La Plata to add to his flag collection, left with several banners and a wooden sign that read "Hendler's Ice Cream, The Velvet Kind."

"I am filling a garage now with memorabilia, and I love the Maryland historical stuff," he said.

Micah Feinstein, 8, of Mount Washington spent $1 for a baseball.

"I wanted a signed one, but it's still pretty cool," he said. "I can take it to a game and get it signed."

Marty Drinan, who left his home in Newark, Del., at dawn, arrived "before all the good stuff was gone." He took photos of the museum and bought an armload of books and railroad prints.

"This was a really good idea," he said.

The sale helped transform one museum's storage into another's display. Herne bought a portable exhibit system from the B&O Railroad Museum.

"It's easy to carry and just right for our school programs," he said.

Amelia Harris, exhibits specialist at the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, found two mannequins from the Flag House & Star-Spangled Banner Museum. She paid $50 for the model of a young girl and $30 for a statuesque male that twisted apart at the waist for easy transport. She was undeterred when volunteers could not locate its hand.

She said it is difficult to find black mannequins for an a-rab exhibit. "These are good buys, and I can transform them into African-Americans."

A hefty wooden cannon carriage, sans weapon, went for $50. A dinner theater crew found props for a production of Grease - a set of glaring yellow lockers, file cabinets and office furniture. Nancy Messick-Evans of Owings Mills left with a wooden tray stamped "Eat More Kendall Tomatoes," a T-shirt printed with "Fells Point" and a photograph of a B&O rail house.

"It is amazing what has been in the closets of these museums," she said.

Melissa Goldman, who bicycles daily from Guilford to her job downtown, found a hooded sweat shirt with a railroad logo. That was a keeper, she said, but as she browsed through piles of photos, old books and posters, she became more selective.

"I love junk, but my rule is for everything that goes into the house, something has to come out," she said.

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