PETA offers to help keep Poe House open

Animal-rights group wants to display a pro-vegan ad at the Baltimore museum in exchange for financial help

  • This is the ad that PETA proposes to display at Baltimore's Edgar Allan Poe House, in exchange for helping out with the museum's financial woes.
This is the ad that PETA proposes to display at Baltimore's… (Baltimore Sun )
February 14, 2011|By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is offering to help keep Baltimore's city-owned Edgar Allan Poe House open, provided the group is allowed to display an ad promoting a vegan diet.

In a letter sent Monday to Poe House curator Jeff Jerome, PETA officials offered to "help a little bit" in the effort to keep the financially strapped Poe House open. In return for that help, PETA proposes, the house would display a sign featuring a man clutching at his chest; the accompanying message would read, "The Tell-Tale Heart of a Meat-Eater. Don't be Haunted by Bad Health: Go Vegan. PETA."

"We're always on the lookout for places where we can bring the animals' voice into the media," said Carrie Snider, special projects coordinator for PETA. "We heard that the Poe Museum was having trouble, and everyone wanted to find a way that would help them and help the animals."

The city's Committee for Historic and Architectural Preservation, which runs the museum on North Amity Street, has been told to have a plan in place by July 2012 to run it without city funds. The museum's $85,000 operating cost was slashed from the city budget last year, although the house has remained open with money raised through events and private contributions.

City budget officials, however, said PETA's proposal was not in character with the historic nature of the house and is not likely to be approved.

"CHAP design standards do not allow the display of advertisements on the building for particular products or causes," said Thomas J. Stosur, director of the city Department of Planning. "It is also inappropriate within the tiny house, where display space is already very limited. The exhibits are devoted to Poe."

A PETA spokeswoman said this is the first time the group has made such an approach to a museum, although it has placed similar ads in public spaces before, including trucks, trash cans and playground equipment.

"We've never done this with a museum that I can recall," said PETA spokeswoman Ashley Gonzalez, adding the group looks to "place ads where cities need money."

Gonzalez said the group did not have a specific dollar figure in mind. "We work on the price later," she said.

Poe lived in the Baltimore house for about three years, leaving there at age 26 in 1835 to move to Richmond, Va. The house belonged to his aunt, Maria Clemm. Another of the home's occupants was Clemm's daughter, Virginia, some 14 years younger than Poe, who would later become his wife.

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