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The Maryland Historical Society launches new exhibit

Opens Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

7/1/2016, 9:30 a.m.
This exhibit contains more than 50 items spanning four centuries of donations to the Maryland Historical Society, including two of ...
Mustel celesta piano. Practice and travel piano that belonged to James Hubert "Eubie" Blake. Ca. 1923 (Photo Credit: Maryland Historical Society)

This exhibit contains more than 50 items spanning four centuries of donations to the Maryland Historical Society, including two of Eubie Blake's practice pianos, period clothing, portraits, silver, a wool tapestry of George Washington, the sign from Club Hippo and a video installation of images from the Preserve the Baltimore Uprising project. The exhibition will run through June 30, 2017.

"This exhibition is a not only a wonderful opportunity to showcase the newest additions to the institution but also one in which we can show the breadth of what material comes into this nationally important collection," says President and CEO Mark B. Letzer.

When touring the Maryland Historical Society's galleries, visitors will discover a broad range of objects from paintings to textiles, and, oftentimes the stories behind the items donated are touching and important to the object's history.

"This exhibition explores not only what MdHS has been collecting for the past five years, but the stories behind why donors share their possessions with us," sais Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch. "The range of what we collect is very broad— from 18th century portraits to objects from the Baltimore Uprising of 2015— because we strive to represent the fullest possible picture of Maryland's history from first settlement to the present. Donors are motivated by many reasons when they give an object or objects to the museum and each donor has a special story to tell."

Eubie Blake's practice piano, traveling pump organ— perhaps the first instrument he ever played— his banjo and never-before seen ephemera, were in the care of Blake's longtime entertainment lawyer, Elliott Hoffman and his wife, Nancy. They developed a deep friendship with the master musician and composer and in May 2016, donated the items to the Maryland Historical Society.

"Eubie Blake is a legend from the jazz era. These pianos allow us to interpret a pivotal time in the history of music and to celebrate a Baltimore icon," said Letzer.

Blake was one of the most popular performers of the ragtime era and one of the first African American composers of a Broadway musical. The Eubie Blake Manuscript and Ephemera Collection at the Maryland Historical Society, consists of 72 boxes and two over sized folders of materials from the estate of Eubie Blake. These materials include a large amount of Eubie's personal correspondence, legal correspondence, financial records, programs from performances, public press, lyrics and scripts for Eubie's musicals including: “In Bamville” and “Shuffle Along,” miscellaneous music related and travel ephemera and more. This collection, as well as a photograph collection, has recently been re-inventoried and more detailed finding aids have been created.

Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." For more information, visit: www.mdhs.org.