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Today, more than 60 museums are located in Baltimore. They range in variety from the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Orioles Museum to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum. A visible cross-section of Maryland, Baltimore museums showcase the cultural and religious history of its citizenry through institutions, such as the Baltimore American Indian Center, the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, and the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Dating back to about 1765, the Robert Long House is the oldest surviving urban residence. Surviving centuries and fires, its house and garden may be toured for a look into colonial Baltimore life. Other famous Baltimore houses include the Mother Seton House, home of the first American-born Catholic saint, and the Edgar Allen Poe House. Both were constructed in the first half of the 19th century, and now are operated as museums.

Built in 1854, the USS Constellation was the last all sail warship commissioned by the U.S. Navy, and remained in service until 1933, when it was decommissioned. It now resides as a historic landmark in Baltimore Harbor, and is the only American Civil War era vessel still afloat.

One of the first museums in the nation was opened in 1814 in Baltimore by Rembrandt Peale. Fascinated by natural history, Peale displayed artifacts and even fossil bones along with paintings as the centerpieces of his museum. By 1830, the Museum was sold to the City and its exhibits moved to Calvert Street. The original building became Baltimore's first City Hall, and later Primary School no. 1 for colored children (1876), and the City Water Board (1887). From 1915, it was rented to various private business, but not maintained. Facing demolition, the building was restored and rededicated in 1931 as the Municipal Museum of Baltimore. When the Museum closed in 1997, it was the oldest museum in the country. Its collections transferred to the Maryland Historical Society in 1999.

Though no longer home to the Museum, its building still stands at 225 North Holliday Street in Baltimore. Designed by Rembrandt Peale, it was the first structure in this country particularly constructed as a museum. It also was the first public building in this country to use gas lighting. The Peale Museum is listed on the National Historic Building Registry.

The Walters Art Museum maintains a large collection of art and artifacts from around the world much of it originating from the private collection of William Walters. Upon his death in 1894, Walters willed the entirety of his collection to his son Henry. With purchases from Italy and Asia, Henry Walters greatly expanded his fatherís collection and established the Walters Art Gallery in 1909. The Gallery was bequeathed to Baltimore City in 1931, and later renamed the Walters Art Museum.

Today, the Walters Art Museum collection includes relics and artifacts from the ancient Americas, Napoleonic manuscripts, feudal Japanese armaments, 19th century artworks, and much more. The Museum also offers free admission.

The Baltimore Museum of Art was created as part of the City revitalization plan after the Great Fire of 1904. Opened in 1914, the Museum quickly grew through loans and grants. Major contributions to the collection came from the Cone sisters. Dr. Etta and Claribel Cone were raised in a very affluent Baltimore family, and spent a good portion of their lives traveling abroad. In Europe, they acquired a substantial number of paintings, including works by Picasso, and Matisse. Claribel died in 1929, leaving her acquisitions to her sister, who willed the entire collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1949.

Starting with only one painting, the Baltimore Museum of Art now preserves some 90,000 works of art in its permanent holdings, making it the largest art museum in Maryland. The Museum also boasts the largest collection of works by Henri Matisse in the world. While general admission to the Museum is free, special exhibitions sometimes require a purchased ticket.

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 Maryland Manual On-Line, 2011

August 9, 2011   
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