Peale Center’s New Roof Nears Completion

The Peale Center’s new roof is almost finished. This is the first step in restoring America’s oldest museum building, a National Historic Landmark. Plans call for the building to reopen in 2020 as a center for Baltimore history and architecture.

The work is being done by Ruff Roofers, a firm that has put new roofs on other iconic structures in the city, including the base of the Washington Monument, the Old Otterbein Church, Stanford White’s Lovely Lane Church (Spanish tile), and the copper dome that crowns the cupola of Gilman Hall, centerpiece of the Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus.

The Peale Center’s new roof is a standing seam metal roof, “basically a copper roof with a tin-zinc coating,” according to Tim Caldwell, general manager of Ruff Roofers, who is supervising the work. The old roof on the building, installed in the early 20th century, was also a standing seam metal roof made of galvanized steel coated with lead. The material was known as terne, and required painting, he said. The old roof had been repaired in 1970, when major renovations were made to the building, but leaks had developed since then, causing damage to the interior walls and decorative plasterwork.

When they tore off the old metal roof, Caldwell said, they found underneath wooden skip sheathing. This was made up of random width boards, some with a bark texture, that were mostly 18-22 inches wide, indicating that had been cut from the center of the tree. This material was left in place, covered with half-inch plywood, and the new metal roof installed over it. Caldwell said the new roof will have a 50-100-year lifespan.

An important element of the project was re-constructing the lantern and skylight that top the rear hip roof of the building. (The main portion of the building facing the street has a pitched roof.) The lantern structure was removed with a crane, taken to the shop, refaced with the same material as the roof, re-glazed, and then put back on the building, again with a crane. The skylight lights the second-floor space that was once Rembrandt Peale’s art gallery and will become a presentation and exhibit hall in the new center.

For a building, the roof is the main line of defense against the elements, according to Caldwell. “It’s amazing how quickly water can do damage; it will rot wood, freeze and expand in masonry,” he said. “The roof is one of the first things you need to do to protect a building.”

Rebuilding and capping the chimneys, re-pointing the exterior brick and restoring the masonry, including the sandstone sills, is also ongoing as part of the same contract. Academy Stone is the contractor for the masonry restoration; this work is expected to be finished in about six weeks. The total cost of the first phase of the Peale restoration is about $700,000, including roughly $500,000 for the new roof. It is being paid for by the City of Baltimore, which owns the building. SM&P Architects is the designer and the Baltimore Department of General Services is overseeing the project.

“The Peale Center: A Place for Everybody’s Story” on WYPR’s “On the Record”

The Peale was honored today when WYPR’s “On the Record” gave us the opportunity to share our new Be Here: EDU initiative with listeners. With support from Melissa Gerr, Sheila Kast interviewed the Peale’s Director, Nancy Proctor, and Omnimuseum Project Director, Michael Burns, about the charrette they are convening at the Peale on September 9 with University of Maryland’s Audra Buck-Coleman and Tuesday Barnes. Saturday’s design workshop kicks off the development of a new storytelling program to collect and share authentic stories of Baltimore schools, past and present, as told by students and graduates. The aim is to offer a deeper understanding of both present-day experiences of segregation in Baltimore’s schools and their historical context by connecting the Peale’s own history as “Male and Female Colored School Number One” (1878-1887) with contemporary stories of Baltimore schools through a series of exhibitions and programs at the Peale and around the City.

You can hear the interview on WYPR’s website and register to participate in the charrette. Can’t make it this time? Sign up to hear about future plans and opportunities.

Do you have stories about Baltimore’s Confederate statues?

Mayor Catherine Pugh made the historic decision to have four Confederate statues removed from Baltimore’s public spaces last night. Many, such as Baltimore Heritage, have convened tours and discussions about the statues, and Noise Plaque contributed their response to the Parting of Lee and Jackson statue in Wyman Park to the #BhereBmore project last year. We’d like to hear your stories: how have you experienced the statues and their removal? Please tag your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #BhereBmore.

What do you think people today and future generations need to know about this moment in Baltimore’s history and culture?

Here is a handy timeline of Confederate monuments and memory in Baltimore compiled by Eli Pousson.

If you tag your posts, recordings and photos #BhereBmore, we’ll make a Storify of what you share. Here are some of the tools and platforms we use regularly:

Please note that hate speech and racist comments will not be collected.

Please tag your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #BhereBmore.

3-D interactive digital reconstruction of Baltimore in 1814-15

With highways and high rises crisscrossing today’s Baltimore, it’s hard to imagine what the young city looked in 1814-15, when Rembrandt Peale opened the area’s first museum. But scholars and artists have recently been working to recreate early 19th century Baltimore, a city that Peale would have known well.

This eye-popping 3D interactive digital reconstruction of Baltimore circa 1815 took UMBC’s Imaging Research Center (IRC) more than 4 years to develop. In September of 2014, the first and major phase of this effort, called BEARINGS of Baltimore, Circa 1815, opened to the public at the Maryland Historical Society as part of their bicentennial celebration of Baltimore’s pivotal role in the War of 1812. In 2016, the IRC did a major upgrade of the image to increase its accuracy, amount of information, and level of detail. Explore the Peale’s neighborhood and the rest of the city as it looked after the British attacks in 1814.


The Peale on WYPR Humanities Connection

Today Peale Director Nancy Proctor talked about the Peale’s past, present and future on WYPR’s Humanities Connection. Hear the broadcast or read the full transcript below.

Phoebe Stein, Executive Director of Maryland Humanities: Did you know that the Peale is the oldest museum building in the United States? Nancy Proctor, director of the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture, tells us a bit about the Peale’s past, present, and future in Baltimore.

Nancy Proctor: Baltimore is one of the oldest cities in the United States. But its reputation has been shaped by a small number of narratives that don’t adequately represent the full diversity of Baltimore’s voices. Baltimore needs new narratives in order to be understood and valued, globally and at home. And as the African proverb goes, “Every time an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.” We also need to save the old stories before they disappear forever.

The Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture aims to help people see Baltimore in a new light by serving as a production house for narratives of the City, new and old. The new Center is based in the historic Peale Museum, a place with a fascinating story of its own. Rembrandt Peale first opened the doors of his Museum and Gallery of the Fine Arts on August 15, 1814. Coming from a family of accomplished artists, explorers, and natural scientists, Peale demonstrated gas light in his Museum’s galleries, and then introduced the first street lamps powered by gas across the city. “Light City” was the first town in America to use the new technology, and The Gas Light Company Peale founded in 1816 has now been in continuous operation for more than 200 years.  It’s known today as BGE.

Peale’s Museum, on the other hand, didn’t last so long. By 1830 it had closed, and the building was purchased by the City to be used as its first City Hall. At the end of the 19th century, it became the first public high school for African-American students in Baltimore. From the 1930s through 1996, the building served as the City’s Municipal Museum once more, commonly known as “the Peale.” For the past 20 years, the building has been largely vacant, but has hosted a number of critically-acclaimed events, including The Contemporary’s 2016 exhibition “Only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars,” by Abigail DeVille, and Submersive Theater’s ground-breaking production, “H.T. Darling’s Incredible Musaeum Presents: The Treasures of New Galapagos, Astonishing Aquisitions from the Perisphere.” That sold-out show, inspired in part by the Peale’s own history, will return to the Peale in November for a limited run.

The new Peale Center will continue to host dynamic exhibitions and programs throughout the 2017 renovation of the building’s exterior, including, in October, Birdland in the Anthropocenecurated by Baker Prize-winning artist, Lynne Parks. We’re also reaching out to local groups and artists to co-produce programs in Baltimore’s communities. The Peale’s core initiative is Be Here: Baltimore, featuring authentic stories of the city as told by the people who live and work here. Be Here: Baltimore was piloted last summer, and has helped publish more than 1,200 Baltimore stories on a range of free and open platforms in the past year.

When the Peale’s renovation is complete in 2020, the historic building will host a Media Maker Space, giving the city’s culture keepers the resources and expertise they need to publish anything from mobile apps and VR experiences, to exhibitions and documentary films. By supporting the city’s creators, the Peale aims to catalyze a new American Renaissance that will yield a more inclusive record of the city, its people, and its places.

To find out more about what’s happening at the Peale, you can come by for tours, and live storytelling with WYPR’s Aaron Henkin during our Founder’s Day Open House, August 14-15, at 225 Holliday Street, across from the Abel Wolman Municipal Building.

Phoebe Stein: More information about upcoming events at the Peale can be found at Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR.  For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.

Peale Center Appoints Nancy Proctor, PhD, Executive Director

Nancy Proctor (right) prepares for a presentation in Italy in 2017.
Nancy Proctor (right) prepares to give a talk in Italy in 2017.

(Baltimore, MD) — August 2, 2017 — The Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture is pleased to announce the appointment of its first executive director, Nancy Proctor, PhD. Most recently, Nancy served as Deputy Director of Digital Experience and Communications at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and before that as head of Mobile Strategy and Initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution. She is co-chair of Museums and the Web (MW), the largest international conferences dedicated to innovation in the cultural sector, and she lectures and publishes widely on technology, accessibility, and transformation in museums.

“We are delighted to have Nancy Proctor as our new director,” said James D. Dilts, President of the Peale Center. “With a background in American art history, she combines traditional museum experience and a broad knowledge of the latest techniques of communication. We are very fortunate to have her expertise and exciting new ideas as we work to bring the Peale Museum into the 21st century.”

The Peale Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, is restoring and reopening to the public Baltimore’s Peale Museum, with the help of the City of Baltimore, the State of Maryland, and private foundations and donors. Closed and largely vacant since 1997, the Peale is the oldest museum building in America and a National Historic Landmark. Rembrandt Peale opened it in 1814 as an art and natural history museum. The city-owned building has also served as our earliest City Hall, the first public high school for African American students in Baltimore, and the city’s municipal museum, commonly known as “the Peale.”

The Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture aims to help people see Baltimore in a new light by serving as a production house for new narratives of the city. Nancy has developed the Peale’s core program, Be Here: Baltimore, as a platform for Baltimore’s diverse communities to share their authentic stories of the city and its places, and to enable them to be heard globally and locally. This digital cultural storytelling concept transforms the way oral history is produced and made relevant in the 21st century using contemporary tools and technology.

When the Peale’s renovation is complete in 2020, the historic building will host a Media Maker Space, enabling access for the city’s culture keepers to the resources and expertise they need to publish anything from mobile apps and virtual reality (VR) experiences, to exhibitions and documentary films. By supporting the city’s creators, the Peale aims to catalyze a new American Cultural Renaissance and help produce a more inclusive record of the city. The Peale will also be the go-to place for learning about Baltimore’s history and architecture, and the people who created the city we know today.

Plans call for the building to be completely restored and reopened to the public in 2020. Exhibitions and performances continue in the building while construction takes place outside: currently the roof is being replaced and exterior masonry restored by the City of Baltimore. The Peale will host a Founder’s Day Open House August 14-15 featuring drop-in tours and live storytelling with WYPR’s Aaron Henkin and neighbors from the 200 block of Holliday Street. Baker prize-winning artist, Lynne Parks, curates Birdland and the Anthropocene, at the Peale October 6-29, exploring the impact of the city’s architecture and the built environment on natural ecosystems. Following in November, Submersive Theater’s ground-breaking H.T. Darling’s Incredible Musaeum Presents: The Treasures of New Galapagos, Astonishing Aquisitions from the Perisphere, which appeared at The Peale Center this Spring, will return for a limited run.

Nancy Proctor speaking at TEDx Hamburg, 25 June 2017.

The Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture is generously supported by many individuals and organizations, including the State of Maryland, the Middendorf Foundation, the Macht Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the Riepe Family Foundation, the Baltimore City Historical Society, the Delaplaine Foundation, the City of Baltimore’s Department of General Services, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, the Michael J. & Patricia K. Batza Foundation, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Baltimore National Heritage Area, and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, creator of the Baker Artist Portfolios,

Roof Renovation Update

The cupola over the Peale’s picture gallery.

Baltimore City’s Department of General Services is in the final stages of replacing the Peale’s roof and restoring the exterior masonry. Renovation has now begun on the cupola that gives natural light to the “picture gallery.” It was the addition of this gallery to the Federal-style row house that made Rembrandt Peale’s 1814 museum an architectural innovation by Robert Cary Long, Sr.

The replacement of the Peale’s roof and restoration of its exterior is being undertaken by Baltimore City’s Department of General Services.

Completion of the renovation work is planned by end of Summer 2017. The Peale is open for special events and available for rental throughout the renovation of the building’s exteriors. Contact us if you have questions or would like to visit!

Summer school at the Peale: Multimedia Storytelling Program for Kids

Does your child love music? film? stories? Hip Hop culture?

The Media Rhythm Institute is offering 6 week Hip Hop songwriting and documentary-making courses at the Peale, Mon-Thu 6-8pm from July 10 – August 18, 2017. Kids aged 8-18 are welcome at the discounted summer rate of $360 per student, per course; $670 for both courses.

Register for Songwriting: Mon & Wed; Documentary-making: Tue & Thu

Media Rhythm Institute featured on WBAL

WBAL’s Barry Simms visited Lakeland Elementary/Middle School today to check out the Reading Literacy Program from iRhyme that will be at the Peale this summer from July 10-August 18. Sample the MRI kids’ creativity and great stories here! 

Find out more and enroll your kid for the summer program or make a donationto help a student participate!

Gary Hawkins III, photographer and Media Rhythm Institute participant with So So Def.
Gary Hawkins III, photographer and Media Rhythm Institute participant with So So Def.

Songwriting, Filmmaking, and More

The Media Rhythm Institute  (MRI) is running a six week Hip Hop songwriting and documentary-making courses for kids aged 8-18, July 10 –August 18, 2017 at The Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture. The first museum ever built in the US, the storied Peale will host the newest kinds of multimedia storytelling about the places and people of Baltimore thanks to courses taught by iRhyme and Channel Me Media. The Media Rhythm Institute is a new partnership between Channel Me Media and iRhyme, which was recently featured on WBAL and WMAR: WBAL: violencevideos-call-for-change/10019386
Gary Hawkins III, youth media specialist and Media Rhythm Institute participant.

Jimmie Thomas, Filmmaker and co-founder of the Media Rhythm Institute, said: “This program gives the youth an opportunity to guide and enhance their network, skills and voices by learning how to use music, multimedia, reading and more to control their own narrative.” “iRhyme and Channel Me Media have helped hundreds of kids across the city apply their creativity and develop their skills in communication and entrepreneurship,” said Nancy Proctor, director of the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture. “We are honored that thanks to the Media Rhythm Institute partnership, the Peale can be a new platform for their great work.” The courses run Mon-Thu from 6-8pm at the Peale, across from the City’s Abel Wolman Municipal Building on Holliday Street and next door to the Real News Network and Zion Church. For kids whose families can’t afford the discounted summer rate of $360 per course, the MRI has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo:

This six week summer program harnesses the ambitions of young people who want to be like the media heroes they follow, and engages that energy to help students comprehend texts, sharpen math and communication skills, and learn 21st century skills in media, technology, and creative entrepreneurship. At the end of the courses, students produce DVDs of their work they can sell, developing sales, marketing, and business management skills. The students will also perform and present their work in a live event at the Peale.