Dotted with waterways and coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean, the Mid-Atlantic state of Maryland has a rich maritime history and continues to attract visitors drawn here by the opportunities for idyllic waterside living. But there’s no shortage of urban attractions either, most notably in vibrant and edgy Baltimore, a historically important seaport but also exuding the pulsating energy of a major metropolis.
Maryland is also home to an impressive number of museums and cultural institutions, many of which have been created to honour or celebrate a particular facet of the state’s cultural or social heritage. If you’re planning a trip to Maryland over the coming months and would like to check out an exhibition during your stay, we’ve picked out 12 of the best taking place this winter.
Additionally, if you’re visiting any of the exhibitions listed below via Baltimore by air and need to hire a rental car at the airport, check out this article.
A Perfect Power: Motherhood and African Art
At a moment when questions of femininity and, specifically, representations of the female body continue to be a hot source of discussion across the west, looking at the way that African culture and its artistic heritage has approached these issues provides a fresh and timely perspective. From eye-catching headdresses of elderly matriarchs to sculptures that represent mythic female figures, this captivating exhibition brings together nearly 40 objects from public and private collections to demonstrate how artists have represented the power of African mothers and used maternal imagery to signal moral, cultural, and spiritual authority down the ages.
LOCATION Baltimore Museum of Art DATES Through 17 January 2021
The Science & Mystery of Sleep
Fusing science with philosophy, this exhibition ex something we all do – sleep. Featuring three handmade bedrooms created by visual artists, it delves deep into the latest scientific research behind sleep as both a natural process essential to our well-being and as a hypnagogic (the state between wakefulness and sleep) portal, enabling fresh revelations in science, art, and creative innovation. The exhibition also presents a collection of blankets by textile artist Deborah Berger, and a powerful film on people who consciously use the hypnagogic state as a catalyst for their own creative and spiritual endeavours.
LOCATION American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore DATES 10 October 2020 – Fall 2022
Spectrum of Fashion
The Maryland Center of History and Culture has tapped into one of its greatest archival treasures for this visually stunning exhibition, which features nearly 100 examples of women’s and men’s clothing and accessories, as well as decorative arts, spanning some four centuries. Highlights include a gown worn to George Washington’s inaugural ball, dresses worn by first ladies, and several examples of early French couture. Designers represented include Maryland-born Claire McCardell, Hermès, Pierre Cardin, and Worth, to name a few.
LOCATION Maryland Center for History and Culture, Baltimore DATES Through December 2020
Storytelling with Purpose: Documentary Quilts of Dr. Joan M. E. Gaither
This unique exhibition, which features a special-crafted Eastern Shore quilt created with the participation of regional communities, showcases the incredible works – and life – of the revered artist, activist and teacher Dr. Joan Gaither. From emancipation in Maryland, to life as a young woman in the 1960s, to the Black watermen of the Chesapeake, the story quilts of Dr. Gaither tell evocative biographical tales of her life, the lives of those around her, and those who came before her. Winner of the prestigious 2017 Maryland Heritage Award, Dr. Gaither is a true master at interpreting autobiographical and community stories through multimedia quilts, as this exhibition attests.
LOCATION Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury DATES 6 November 2020 – 16 May 2021
Our Changing Waterfront
The Annapolis Maritime Museum focuses on the rich maritime heritage of Annapolis and the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay through the contrasting lens of “then” and “now”. In its permanent exhibition called ‘Our Changing Waterfront’, visitors can discover the wonder of the Bay through two 500-gallon aquariums, interact with a holographic waterman, and jump aboard a 360-degree virtual reality experience to sail in a Wednesday Night Race.
LOCATION The Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park, Annapolis DATES Permanent
A Feminine Touch: The story of the women who had a hand in shaping a town
Through an evocative collection of historic photographs, postcards, military awards, and women’s clothing, this fascinating exhibition celebrates the crucial role that women have played in the evolution of Ocean City from its 1800s origins to the current day. The lives of several distinguished female residents of the town are given particular emphasis, as well as eight torch-bearers who stood at the vanguard of Ocean City’s hospitality scene, running several of its first ever hotels. As well as honouring the go-getting attitude and business acumen of such women, the exhibition also recalls those whose acts of bravery – such as female emergency service personnel – which have helped shape the indomitable spirit that has endured and helped the town prosper to this day.
LOCATION Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum, Ocean City DATES Ongoing until at least 2023
Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit
From ancient astronomers to today’s space scientists and astronauts, Jewish people have always played a prominent role in exploring the wonders of outer space. Whether through art, writing, comedy, philosophy or travelling to space themselves, Jews have always contributed to pushing the conversation forward by boldly imagining realms beyond our earth. A year and a half in the making, this always quirky but never dull exhibition features find items as rare as 18th and 19th-century rabbinic tomes on astronomy, mementos from Jewish space travellers, and a detailed timeline of Jewish accomplishments in astronomy and spaceflight.
LOCATION Jewish Museum of Maryland, Baltimore DATES Through 11 April 2021
The Sensory Wall
Among the permanent exhibits and interactive play areas at Port Discovery Children’s Museum – one of Baltimore’s most popular indoor family attractions – is The Sensory Wall. Designed to enhance the senses and spark the creativity of younger children, the touchy-feely wall invites kids to explore a wide variety of colours, shapes and textures. The perfect way to keep your kids entertained on a rainy winter’s day, this exhibit will teach them all about the world of contrasts. There are also several other areas and exhibits to explore at the museum this winter and beyond, including an Art Showcase, a mini-soccer pitch, an Adventure Expedition zone, a weaving wall, and a diner where kids can role-play being wait staff or hungry customers.
LOCATION Port Discovery Children’s Museum, Baltimore DATES Permanent
Faces of the Chesapeake
A. Aubrey Bodine examines the grittiness of the brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay with the sweet tenderness of a tired smile. His images celebrate the most common and sometimes unusual occupations up and down the waterway. Bodine described his work and passion as such: “Photographing the United States was a big thrill, but I always get a bigger thrill when I make a picture of a fleet of dredge boats moving over an oyster bed on a beautiful autumn day.” The power of Bodine’s photography, his subject and composition, goes beyond the frame and reaches the reflection of the observer as we identify with the faces of the Chesapeake.
LOCATION Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons DATES October 2020 – March 2021
The St. Francis Missal
The St. Francis Missal – a legendary 12th-century manuscript and so-called “relic of touch” of St. Francis of Assisi – is getting its first dedicated exhibition this winter. Featuring around 17 objects, including manuscripts, paintings, ivories, ceramics, and documentation, the exhibition draws upon the Walters Art Museum’s world-renowned rare books and manuscripts collection to honour the fabled Missal. The book already attracted substantial numbers of pilgrims and scholars to Baltimore to see it each year, but decades of use took a toll on its fragile binding, and in 2017, the museum’s conservation staff began a two-year restoration project, culminating with its inclusion in this exhibition.
LOCATION The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore DATES 1 January 2021
Where Land and Water Meet: The Chesapeake Bay Photography of David W. Harp
With a career spanning over four decades, no photographer has done more to capture the beauty and essence of the historic Maryland town of Chesapeake Bay. Now a new exhibition of Harp’s work, as well as that of his professional collaborators Tom Horton and Sandy Cannon-Brown, reflects upon the evolution of his photography over the years, how his style and perspectives have shifted, and what it might tell us about the future we can expect for one of North America’s most fascinating regions.
LOCATION Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St Michaels DATES 25 September 2020 – 20 September 2021