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The Fire Museum of Maryland displays a restored firehouse facade.
It’s no secret that I love museums.
You’d think that being a student at a school like Hopkins would dry up my intellectual curiosity (obviously not the school’s intention, but they aren’t known for skimping on the work demands). And I definitely need a break from learning on the weekend — my Netflix and snack hours with my roommate are sacred.
But I also love the freedom that comes with getting off campus and finding out more about a topic I’m interested in. We’re at Hopkins, after all. We all have subjects that fascinate us and that we love to nerd out over.
Fortunately, Baltimore has numerous museums, full of rare artifacts and history, that are close to home. Even more fortunate for the money-saving college students that we are: Many of them are free. This is more true than ever on this particular weekend.
Several museums in Baltimore offer free admission on a daily basis. Others are participating in Smithsonian’s Museum Day this year. On Saturday, Sept. 22, more than 1,300 museums in the U.S. will be participating in the 14th iteration of the event. Sponsored by Smithsonian magazine, the event seeks to expand the Washington D.C. museums’ famous free admission in other locations across the country. The event will be reaching several Baltimore museums as well.
If you’re interested in learning more about a topic you love or discovering more about something entirely new, check out the Smithsonian magazine’s website.
It lists museums participating in the event, including several in Baltimore and D.C. One free ticket (good for two people) is available to download once you’ve decided which museum to visit.
You can’t really go wrong when no money is involved in making a decision. That said, here are some top choices to be considered.
Maryland Historical Society
Founded in 1844, this joint library and museum has over 350,000 artifacts and seven million books between them.
There are currently several exhibitions, including Indelible Ink: Discovered Stories of Famous People, which features the writings and autographs of more than 1,400 historical figures, and The Star-Spangled Banner Gallery, which houses the oldest known manuscript of the national anthem. If you want to learn more about the state that we call home, this is the perfect place to start.
Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum
If you’re into the history of early America, this is the place to be. The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, built in 1793, was once Mary Young Pickersgill’s home.
You probably have no idea who she is, but you probably have heard the song that was inspired by one of her flags.
When he saw it flying over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write what became the national anthem.
Show up before 3 p.m. if you want to embark on a tour of the house.
Fire Museum of Maryland
Established in 1971, the Fire Museum has the third-largest collection of fire-related objects in the world. The museum focuses on firefighting history from 1806 on, and there are plenty of exhibits with artifacts from all years.
From horse-drawn to gasoline-powered ancestors of fire trucks to a restored facade of an 1871 firehouse, there’s plenty to see that won’t be found in a typical museum. And yes, you can live out your childhood dream by climbing on a fire engine.
This isn’t in Baltimore, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. The Newseum in Washington D.C. is dedicated to portraying the importance and impact of the First Amendment in the U.S. There are over 23 exhibits, including one on FBI operation in the modern day, one on the students who fought segregation in the early 1960s and one on the “First Dogs” who once belonged to former presidents. There’s even eight 12-foot high pieces from the Berlin Wall that once stood in Germany.
With classes as stressful as they are, it’s nice once in a while to learn something just because you want to. With Smithsonian Museum Day, this is the chance to explore off campus and find out more about a topic that fascinates you. Museum Day is a once-a-year opportunity, and it’s worth paying a new place a visit.