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Reginald F. Lewis Museum seeks to raise revenue and visibility

New hires and family-oriented events among efforts aimed at attracting visitors

Ursula V. Battle | 12/27/2013, 6 a.m.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture is Baltimore’s premier facility highlighting the history and ...
(Left-right): Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, son Khalil with Andrew M. Bertamini, Regional Vice President, Wells Fargo and Lisa Frison, Vice President of African American Segment for Wells Fargo Courtesy photo

— The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture is Baltimore’s premier facility highlighting the history and accomplishments of African Americans with a special focus on Maryland’s African American community.

The museum is named after Baltimore native and entrepreneur, philanthropist, and CEO Reginald F. Lewis. The facility is the East Coast’s largest African American museum occupying 82,000 square-feet. Features include an oral history recording studio, café, outside terrace and reception areas.

A Smithsonian affiliate, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum is located near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at the corner of Pratt and President Streets.

The museum is working to attract more visitors with strategic new hires charged with increasing visibility coupled with an impressive lineup of exhibitions, workshops and other special events.

Helen Yeun, director of marketing for The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is among the new hires. D’Ana Downing who was hired in September is the new associate director of development.

“We both are responsible for raising revenue and visibility for the museum,” said Yeun. “In addition, Assistant Curator Asantewa Boakyewa was hired over the summer to assist with continuing high quality exhibitions in our space.”

“We want to highlight the rich history of Maryland, the vital contributions of African Americans, and present a fuller, richer, more complete story of American history” said Yeun. “Through programs, films, music, exhibitions, and other events, we hope the public walks away moved and enriched with a wider understanding of the context of American history.”

To that end the museum is currently exhibiting “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard & Shirley Kinsey - Where Art & History Intersect opened at the Museum.” Highlights include an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, a signed copy of Brown vs. Board of Education and rare works from early 19th century artists. Wells Fargo is a sponsor of the exhibit.

According to Yeun, the museum is also placing emphasis on events aimed at attracting families. This holiday season, it is offering a wide variety of interactive events that families can enjoy together.

On December 28, the museum will be presenting “A Kwanzaa Celebration” featuring Kwanzaa founder Dr. Maulana Karenga. The event will be held from noon until 4 p.m. and celebrates the holidays with an afternoon of performances, educational programs, crafts and storytelling. Event highlights include “Drum Talk” with Sankofa Dance Theater drummers and beat box artist “Shodekeh”; a workshop on Kwanzaa principles with “Culture Kingdom Kids”; and a festival featuring an African Marketplace displaying vendor’s goods.

“We hope to attract a broad range of Marylanders and people from beyond Maryland,” said Yeun. “We want kids, mothers, fathers, grandparents, teens, and film lovers, to come. We also have events for lovers of fashion and the 80s.Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, there is something here for everyone. We want people to come and enjoy all of the things wonderful things this museum has to offer.”

Andrew M. Bertamini, the Regional President for Wells Fargo’s Maryland Region and a member of the museum’s Board of Directors said: “Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglass were very influential, but so many young people don’t know who they are or what they have done,” said Bertamini. “We want more teachers to bring students. It takes money to run these things, and the museum needs support. We want people to come out and see these wonderful exhibits.”

The museum also features “Third Thursdays.” For $5, visitors can relax, mingle, visit the galleries, and enjoy live entertainment.

A MLK Jr. Birthday Celebration will take place January 18 through January 20 and will offer a weekend of activities including a living history performance, music and crafts. Of course, Black History Month includes a variety of events including a book reading by Maryland author Erika Blount on February 15, who will share juicy behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the iconic TV show “Soul Train” from her book “Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America's Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments.”

For more information, about the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, call 443-263-1800 or visit: www.RFLewisMuseum.org.