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About this collection

A collection of images documenting the building and exhibitions of The Baltimore Museum of Art. The images trace changes in the Museum’s exhibition program and interior and exterior from its earliest days in the Garrett mansion on Monument St. to the construction of its Wyman Park location in 1929, as well as later additions.

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Collection Location: Archives and Manuscripts Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art

Woman on exterior steps of the Baltimore Museum of Art looking up at an enormous display of wax flowers in alcoveCollection Overview: The Building and Exhibitions Photo Collection contains a selection from a larger collection of nearly 1,000 glass lantern slides that document the exhibitions and interior and exterior of The Baltimore Museum of Art from its opening in 1923 through the 1950’s.  The larger collection also includes images of works in the BMA’s collection, regional architecture, and decorative arts.

Donations from scholars, organizations, and schools helped build the slide collection beginning in the 1920’s. To reach out to the community, the slides were circulated to the public through the Museum’s Library. A 1939 BMA membership campaign brochure listed the slides as one of eight major services offered by the Museum. According to the brochure, "the Museum places at the disposal of Baltimore its collection of some 6,500 slides – illustrating great works of all ages and countries.  This collection of slides is in constant use.  Groups, clubs and organizations of every type throughout the city draw on the collection for material for their lectures.  Teachers in the schools and professors in the colleges borrow the slides and use them before groups that total thousands every year." Clearly these were an important resource for the community at the time, but with the increasing availability of cheaper and less fragile transparencies and 35mm slides by the 1960’s, they were moved to storage and eventually transferred to the BMA’s Archives and Manuscripts Collections in 2003.

The Baltimore Museum of Art was incorporated in 1914, but did not find a suitable home until M. Carey Thomas, longtime companion of philanthropist Mary E. Garrett and executor of her estate, offered Garrett’s mansion for rent to the Museum in 1922. After settling into the lovely Victorian home at 101 W. Monument St. near Mount Vernon Place, the BMA opened its first exhibition on February 22, 1923.  The Museum remained there until 1929 when construction was completed on a new building designed by John Russell Pope, the architect of the Jefferson Memorial and the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.  The Pope building, situated on the campus of Johns Hopkins University just across from the Wyman Park Dell, was quickly in need of expansion and Pope also designed the Jacobs Wing, Antioch Court, and auditorium additions in 1937.  Further additions such as the Saidie A. May Young People’s Art Center in 1950 helped support the BMA’s growing collection and educational mission.

Significant images in this collection include: views of the Museum’s first home in the rarely photographed Garrett mansion which was torn down in 1930; views of the 1929 building designed by John Russell Pope around the time of its construction; views of interior areas of the museum such as the Saidie A. May Young People’s Art Center, Julius Levy Memorial Room, and the Renaissance Room that have since been moved or changed extensively.

Related Material:

Architect John Russell Pope’s Baltimore. Baltimore: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 2004.

Roberts, Kent Greenfield. The Museum: Its First Half Century. Baltimore: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1966.

"Lantern Slides: History & Manufacture." American Memory. Library of Congress.

Collection overview prepared by Emily Rafferty, Associate Librarian and Archivist, The Baltimore Museum of Art.

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