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A window to the past and an investment in the future:
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture

Baltimore welcomes an exciting and innovative tourist attraction to its east side Inner Harbor. After eight years of planning, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will open its doors in 2004. Located at the corner of Pratt and President Streets, the award-winning architecture is the largest museum of its kind along the East Coast.

An interactive learning environment makes for an entertaining experience in the permanent exhibition. Concentrating on more than 350 years of Maryland African American history, the exhibition is presented in three
galleries: Labor that built a Nation; Family and Community; and Culture/Arts and Enlightenment.

Public Relations manager Victoria Stinson understands that the emphasis on Maryland history sets the MAAHC apart from more common museums that usually have a national focus.

“Many people don't realize that a lot of nationally famous African Americans are actually from Maryland,” said Stinson. The list includes Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglas, Benjamin Banneker, and Thurgood Marshall.

The museum not only focuses on famous Marylanders, it also tells the stories of everyday people. Tobacco farmers, churchgoers and local artists are just a few examples of what visitors will see in the galleries that range from past to present.

“The museum gives a wider sense of African American history. Not just focusing on scholars and historians but on people like B. Gaddy,” said Exhibit Manager Margaret Hutto.

Interactive learning will make visiting fun no matter what the age. A 200-seat theater will host a number of events, including performances, film festivals, lectures, panel discussions and receptions. The Resource Center will be equipped with touch-screen computers, printers and Internet access. Visitors will be able to talk with professors, curators and other experts in African American heritage from around the world via the Distance Learning Center thanks to Verizon Communications. The Oral History Recording and Listening Studio will allow visitors to listen to the stories of Maryland's African Americans and record their own. The museum will also have a multi-purpose classroom, gift shop and café.

The special exhibition gallery will include national and international issues. With these ever-changing exhibitions, the museum is designed to bring visitors back more than once.

The museum has dedicated itself to the future by partnering up with the
Maryland State Department of Education. In order to reach more than 850,000 students and 50,000 teachers, they have committed to developing a curriculum and engaging Maryland students in pre- and post-museum visit activities.

According to the museum's pamphlet, the Maryland African American Museum of History and Culture will be a place to remember struggle, celebrate accomplishment, and experience culture, a beacon of pride and inspiration for all people.

“Our stories show the struggle that African Americans had to go through in life and how they still endeavor to move forward,” said Stinson. “Despite setbacks, there is an innate determination to succeed, and I think everyone can relate to that,” she continued.

The facility, built by Freelon/RTKL, won the 2001 Isosceles Award for its architectural design. According to the museum's information packet, the 82,000-square-foot, five-story building represents the African American Spirit. The museum is clad in black granite symbolizing strength and elegance, and penetrated by the Red Wall of Freedom illustrating joy and pain. The wall will be inscribed with the names of contributors and their loved ones. Donations are still being accepted.

The state of Maryland has funded the museum with $31 million, and the city of Baltimore has donated the land. The Reginald F. Lewis Foundation has donated $5 million to go towards educational initiatives. Reginald F. Lewis was an African American CEO who built a multi-billion dollar corporation called Beatrice TLC. Lewis also wrote books and inspired youth to reach for success. Though Lewis passed away in 1993 at the age of 50, his cause still lives on.

Related Stories

Making a brighter future:: The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture has teamed up with the Maryland Department of Education to reach more than 850,000 students and 50,000 teachers.

Maryland African American Life:: The permanent exhibition will be set into three galleries: Labor that Built a Nation, Family and Community, and Culture/Arts and Enlightenment.