Baltimore’s Best Secret Museums

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A mosaic mask from Mexico, on display at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum.

We here at Baltimore Fishbowl may love the BMA/Walters/American Visionary Arts Museum, but sometimes we’re just in the mood for something a little… different. Good thing Baltimore has its fair share of oddball museums, shrines, and other cabinets of curiosity that you may have never heard of before. Four of our favorites below:

The Arthur “Smokestack” Hardy Fire Museum
It’s rare that a museum is as specific — and as heartfelt — as this one, which honors Baltimore’s first African-American firefighter (and the founder of the first black firefighters’ club in the nation). Housed in the front room of a West Baltimore rowhouse, the museum uses Hardy’s store to tell stories of civil rights, the Great Fire of 1904, and the history of black Baltimore. Caveat:  This museum is in someone’s house, so you’ve got to call ahead; to visit, call Guy Cephas at 443-919-9310.

Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum
The recently-renovated space has breathed new life into this world-class collection of dusty stones, Roman lead curse tablets, ancient incantation bowls, and gold mummy masks. (They also got a spiffy new website that’s worth a visit.) Caveat:  the museum has extremely limited hours — from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Can’t make it on your lunch break? If you give them two weeks notice, you can make an appointment to come some other time.

The National Museum of Dentistry
George Washington’s teeth! Toothpaste commercials starring Bill Cosby and Farrah Fawcett! Fun facts about Mayan dental care! Making brushing and flossing fun must’ve been quite a challenge for this museum‘s curators, but they seem to have risen to the occasion. They even have a narwhal tusk. Caveat:  stay away if you’re an odontophobe.
Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame
It’s only fitting that Baltimore, home of many Division I champs, hosts the nation’s shrine to lacrosse legends. Exhibits trace the sport from its origins as a Native American stickball game pre-dating European arrival to its current status as one of the world’s fastest growing sports. Plus, the Hall of Fame lets you pay homage to lacrosse greats both past and present. Caveat:  if you don’t care about lacrosse, you will be bored to tears.



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  1. Good picks! Another weird one: the National Pinball Museum in Fells Point. And I run a Makeup Museum. 🙂 It exists only online, but if I had the opportunity to make it a physical space, it would definitely be in Charm City!

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