Need a reprieve from the dreary weather and the stream of worrisome news about COVID? Some days, it seems that escaping to an earlier time period would be a welcome distraction and — if you feel that way too — you’re in luck. While we have all been hunkered down, the staff of Historic Annapolis, Inc. has been busy behind the scenes. As we went about our daily lives not even suspecting the magic they were about, the professional curators at Historic Annapolis have created a time machine to whisk us away to the days of yore!
What’s that, you ask? If you doubt that such a wondrous thing exists, hurry on down to the newly reopened Museum of Historic Annapolis at 99 Main Street near City Dock. Invited to preview their new and permanent exhibition, Annapolis: An American Story, I expected that it would be well presented but — as it is a community museum — I did not envision myself being wowed. However, much to my delight, I found a world-class museum and was swept up into feeling like I’d entered a time traveling machine, all dedicated to the city’s more than 350-year history and to the unique and diverse mix of people who have made Annapolis special.
Planned to be a first stop to acquaint visitors to Annapolis and to link them to other sites of cultural and historic interest around town, the museum offers much to out-of-towners and to local residents as well. All three floors of the well-appointed museum inspire, educate, excite, and leave the visitor with a feeling of awe and pride for Maryland’s capital city by the bay. In every corner, each floor, and even on the window sills, you will find fascinating artifacts, fun facts, historical photographs, and exciting stories of those who came before us. This is no dull, bland display. Rather, this museum engages the visitor in a dynamic and epic adventure of a slice of America filled with revolutionaries and heroes in their quest for liberty and justice.
Beginning on the first floor after you receive a warm greeting from the staff, view the 800-pound wooden acorn that crowned Maryland’s State House for more than 200 years until it was removed by helicopter in 1996 due to water damage. Made of cypress, the acorn is now displayed with an open cross-section so you can see its construction. Imagine the early craftsmen who created it without access to modern tools and wonder at the skill required to install it 180 feet in the air in 1788! Then move on to watch the awe-inspiring, professionally produced short film that encapsulates the history and beauty of Annapolis. After you catch your breath from the spectacular videography, move farther into the museum and follow the time line that stretches from the early days of Annapolis through wars, struggles, industry, and innovation till the present day.
Each display spotlights a specific chunk of history and is linked to the museum’s partner sites so that the visitor can pursue farther details and information. The partner sites include the William Paca House and Garden, Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park Banneker-Douglass Museum, Hammond-Hardwood House, Maryland State House, Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College, U.S. Naval Academy Museum, James Brice House, Hogshead, and the Historic Waterfront Warehouse. All are within walking distance from the Museum of Historic Annapolis in the heart of the Annapolis Historic District.
There is something in this small jewel of a museum for everyone — no matter what age — and I expect each of us will have our favorite aspects. For me, in addition to the film and the acorn, I was smitten by an old printing press and photographs of jitterbugging couples but the feature that most snagged my attention was what the staff referred to as window boxes. Each of the museum’s many windows looked out upon either City Dock or Main Street and the clever staff had seized the opportunity to incorporate these views into the historical story they unfolded. By each window sill, a historical, panoramic photograph allow visitors to compare and contrast today’s view of the city with the same scene at some previous point in time. The effect makes you feel like you could step out of the window and directly into the past: a time machine!
Escape to visit this treasure we have in our midst and bring your friends and family. It’s a place you will want to return to often and a site where you can point visitors to with pride. In the foyer, the staff plans to have a revolving display from community groups and organizations so there will always be something new to see. And it’s almost too much to take in during one visit!
Exiting the museum onto Main Street, I blinked in the sunlight, surprised to be back in the present. Feeling wowed, I shook my head and thought that Annapolis must really be a great place to live. Then I stopped and pinched myself. I live here now — and if you do too or if you’re just visiting — you’ll love the Museum of Historic Annapolis. Come visit it soon!
Vicki Duncan is a licensed professional therapist and welcomes your questions. She can be reached at [email protected].
IF YOU GO
Museum of Historic Annapolis
Address: 99 Main Street, Annapolis MD 21401
Phone: (410) 990-4754
Winter Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Monday.
Admission $10 with discounts for seniors and others; $5 for children 6 to 17. Free to Historic Annapolis members. Family admission (two adults and two or more children), $25.
A Historic Annapolis Membership allows free admission thought the year to both the Museum and the William Paca House and Garden plus special events and discounts on programs including the Historic Annapolis virtual lecture series.
The museum has an elevator and is fully accessible.
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