Maryland Historical Society

Maryland Historical Society

Founded in 1844, the Maryland Historical Society is the state’s oldest continuously operating cultural institution. In keeping with the founders’ commitment to preserve the remnants of Maryland’s past, MdHS remains the premier institution for state history. With over 350,000 objects and seven million books and documents, this institution now serves upward of 100,000 people through its museum, library, press, and educational programs.

 

 

The History of Maryland Historical Society
In January 1844, the founders gathered in the Maryland Colonization Society rooms of the Baltimore City post office, selected John Spear Smith as their first president, appointed officers, and formed committees to draft a constitution, write a membership circular, and find a suitable meeting place. They proposed collecting the "remnants of the state’s history" and preserving their heritage through research, writing, and publications. By the end of the first year, there were 150 members. The society’s undeniable early success inspired plans for a permanent home. They had already outgrown the post office rooms and increasing numbers of donated documents and artifacts overflowed the fireproof safe at the Franklin Street Bank. The new committee planned a grand home for Baltimore’s new cultural institution, including space for an art gallery. One of America’s foremost architects, Robert Carey Long, designed the Athenaeum, a four-story "Italian palazzo" building with, most important for the preservation-minded historical society, fireproof closets.

The organization moved to its current home at 201 West Monument Street in 1919. The former residence of Baltimore philanthropist Enoch Pratt, with a state-of-the-art fireproof addition, came as a gift from Mary Washington Keyser, whose husband, H. Irvine Keyser, had been an active member of the society for forty-three years. The new space allowed for more displays and positioned the society as the logical caretaker of Maryland treasures. Many researchers looked for evidence that connected them to the colony’s founding families or Revolutionary War veterans in order to claim membership in societies such as the Society of the Ark and the Dove or the Sons, or Daughters, of the American Revolution.

The society began expanding the Monument Street facility in 1953 and added the Thomas and Hugg building in 1968, named for benefactors William and John Thomas. The rooms included a modern wing with exhibition space, an auditorium with audio-visual equipment, work rooms, storage space, and "to supplement the present Confederate Room-a Civil War Union Room." In 1981, the society added the France-Merrick Wing to the Thomas and Hugg Building, "a tribute to the Trustees of the Jacob and Annita France Foundation and Robert G. Merrick."

A newly renovated and expanded Maryland Historical Society opened in November 2003, amidst much fanfare and publicity. The facility now includes the Beard Pavilion and the Carey Center for Maryland Life which features nearly 30,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space for museum and library exhibitions, and new storage space for museum collections. 

You'll find more information about the Maryland Historical Society at their site and on their page on The History List.