Dotted with waterways and coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Mid-Atlantic Maryland has a rich maritime history and continues to draw visitors to its idyllic waterside lifestyle. But there’s no shortage of urban attractions, especially vibrant and marginal Baltimore, a historically important seaport but one that also exudes the pulsating energy of a major metropolis.
Maryland is also home to a surprising number of museums and cultural institutions, many of which were established to commemorate or celebrate some aspect of the state’s cultural or social heritage. If you’re planning a trip to Maryland in the coming months and would like to visit an exhibit during your stay, we’ve selected 12 of the best ones this winter.
Also, if you are visiting any of the exhibitions listed below by air through Baltimore and need to rent a car at the airport, check out this article.
The Power of Perfection: Motherhood and African Art
At a time when issues of femininity, and particularly the representation of the female body, remain hot topics of discussion throughout the West, a look at the ways in which African cultures and their artistic legacies address these issues offers a fresh and timely perspective. From striking old women’s headdresses to sculptures representing mythical female figures, this fascinating exhibition brings together nearly 40 objects from public and private collections to demonstrate how artists have demonstrated the power of African motherhood and how maternal figures have symbolized moral, cultural, and spiritual authority through the ages.
Location: Baltimore Museum of Art Dates through January 17, 2021
The Science and Mystery of Sleep
This exhibition blends science and philosophy to showcase something we all do – sleep. Three handcrafted bedrooms created by visual artists, it delves into the latest scientific research behind sleep as both a natural process vital to our well-being and a portal to hypnosis (the state between awakening and sleep), enabling new revelations in science, art and creative innovation. The exhibition also features the blanket collection of textile artist Deborah Berger and a film about people who consciously use the state of sleep as a catalyst for their own creative and spiritual endeavors.
Location: American Dream Art Museum, Baltimore Time: October 10, 2020 – Fall 2022
The Maryland Historical and Cultural Center draws on one of its greatest archival treasures for this visually stunning exhibition featuring nearly 100 pieces of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, as well as decorative artwork spanning four centuries. Highlights include gowns worn at George Washington’s Inaugural Ball, dresses worn by the First Ladies, and some examples of early French fashion. Designers represented include Maryland-born Claire McArdle, Hermès, Pierre Cardin, and Wirth, among others.
Location: Maryland Historical and Cultural Center, Baltimore through December 2020
Storytelling with a Purpose: Dr. Joan M.E. Geisel’s Documentary Quilt
This unique exhibition showcases a special Eastern Shore quilt made with the participation of the local community, featuring the incredible work and life of Dr. Joan Gaither, a highly respected artist, activist and teacher. From the liberation movement in Maryland, to the lives of young women in the 1960s, to the black sailors of the Chesapeake, Dr. Gaither’s Story Quilt tells evocative biographical stories about her life, the lives of those around her, and the lives of those who came before her. Dr. Gaither, recipient of the prestigious 2017 Maryland Heritage Award, is a true master of interpreting autobiographical and community stories through multimedia quilts, as this exhibition proves.
Location Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury Dates November 6, 2020 – May 16, 2021
Our Changing Waterfront
The Annapolis Maritime Museum focuses on Annapolis’ rich maritime heritage and the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay through a contrasting lens of “past” and “present. In its permanent exhibit, Our Changing Waterfront, visitors can discover the wonders of the Bay through two 500-gallon aquariums, interact with a holographic sailor and hop aboard a 360-degree virtual reality experience boat for Wednesday night’s race.
Location Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park, Annapolis Date Permanent
A Woman’s Touch: The story of a woman’s involvement in shaping a town
Through evocative historical photographs, postcards, military awards and women’s clothing, this fascinating exhibit celebrates the important role women have played in Ocean City’s evolution from its 19th century origins to the present day. Special emphasis is placed on the lives of several of the town’s prominent female residents, as well as the eight torchbearers who were at the forefront of Ocean City’s hospitality and operated some of the first hotels ever built in Ocean City. In addition to celebrating the enterprising attitudes and business savvy of these women, the exhibit also recalls their heroic acts, such as female emergency responders, that have shaped the indomitable spirit of the city that continues to this day.
Location Ocean City Lifesaving Station Museum, Ocean City dates in progress until at least 2023
Jews in Space: Tribesmen in Orbit
From ancient astronomers to today’s space scientists and astronauts, Jews have always played an important role in the wonders of outer space exploration. Whether through art, writing, comedy, philosophy or space travel, Jews have always driven the conversation by daring to imagine the realm beyond Earth. A year and a half in the making, this always quirky but never dull exhibition features rare items such as a large collection of 18th and 19th century rabbinic writings on astronomy, memorabilia from Jewish space travelers, and a detailed timeline of Jewish achievements in astronomy and space flight.
Location: Jewish Museum of Maryland, Baltimore through April 11, 2021
A permanent exhibit and interactive play area at one of Baltimore’s most popular indoor family attractions, the Port Discovery Children’s Museum, is the Sensory Wall. Designed to enhance children’s senses and stimulate their creativity, this sensory wall invites children to explore a wide variety of colors, shapes and textures. The perfect way to keep your children entertained on a rainy winter day, this exhibit will teach them all about the contrasts of the world. In addition, the museum has several other areas and exhibits to visit, including an art display area, a mini-soccer field, an adventure quest area, a weaving wall, and a restaurant where kids can play waiter or hungry customer.
Location Port Discovery Children’s Museum, Baltimore Date Permanent
Faces of the Chesapeake
A: Aubrey Bodine examines the gravel of the salty Chesapeake Bay with the sweet tenderness of a weary smile. His photographs celebrate one of the most common and sometimes most unusual occupations on the waterway. Here’s how Bodine describes his work and passion: “It’s a great thrill to photograph in America, but I always feel an even greater thrill when I photograph a fleet of dredges crossing an oyster bed on a beautiful fall day.” As we identify with the face of Chesapeake, the power of Bodine’s photography, his subjects and compositions, transcend the frame and reach the observer’s reflection.
Location: Calvert Marine Museum, Solomon Dates: October 2020 – March 2021
St. Francis of Assisi – Misard
The legendary 12th-century manuscript St. Francis of Assisi, known as the “tactile relics” of Francis of Assisi, will be the subject of a special exhibition for the first time this winter. The exhibition features some 17 rare artifacts, including manuscripts, paintings, ivory, ceramics and documentary materials, drawing on the Walters Art Museum’s world-renowned collection of rare books and manuscripts honoring the legendary Missal. each year, the book attracts a large number of pilgrims and scholars to Baltimore, but decades of use have taken their toll on the book’s fragile binding. in 2017, the museum conservators began a two-year restoration project that culminated in its inclusion in this exhibition.
January 1, 2021, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Where Land Meets Water: David Harper’s Photography of the Chesapeake Bay
With a career spanning more than 40 years, no photographer has contributed as much to the beauty and essence of the historic Maryland town of Chesapeake Bay as he has. Now a new exhibition of Harper’s work, along with that of his professional collaborators Tom Horton and Sandy Cannon Brown, looks back at the evolution of his photography over the years, how his style and perspective have shifted, and what this one of North America’s most fascinating regions might tell us about the future.
Location: Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michael Dates: September 25, 2020 to September 20, 2021