Baltimore's long-awaited Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, initially scheduled to debut last fall, is scheduled to open to the public June 25, museum executives said yesterday.

The 82,000-square-foot, $34 million museum will open with a weekend of festivities, including a June 24 concert featuring Johnny Mathis, a ribbon-cutting and a host of family-oriented events. While many details remain undecided, some suggestions include wrapping the building in ribbon or holding a parade that would include representatives from Baltimore and Maryland's 23 counties.

"What we want to do is give this big gift to the general public," said board member Wanda Q. Draper, chairwoman of the museum's public relations and marketing committee. "This is a gift for the entire state, and for the tourism industry of Maryland as well."

The museum, which will focus on the lives, culture and history of African-Americans in Maryland, will create exhibitions that dovetail with a curriculum designed by the State Board of Education for use in kindergarten through 12th grade. Its collections are based in part upon oral histories, research and artifacts from throughout the state.

The museum is named for Reginald F. Lewis, the late Baltimore-born businessman and philanthropist whose foundation donated $5 million to the project. It will be the second largest facility in the country dedicated to the study and preservation of African-American history and culture. Only Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, at 120,000 square feet, is larger.

Museum officials initially had projected a fall 2004 opening, but pushed back the date to give installers more time to set up the exhibits. "It was worth every minute of the time we took to wait," says Draper. "This is a legacy that will last for generations to come."

The June opening will be the culmination of a decade of planning by former Circuit Court judge and Baltimore mayoral candidate George L. Russell Jr., chairman of the museum's board. "It's the beginning, just the beginning," Russell says. "It's going to be a job that will continue, but we still have a lot of hard work to do."

Staff moved into the five-story museum, at Pratt and President streets, last month.

The state, which contributed $30 million toward construction, will fund 75 percent of the museum's operating costs during the first year.

"You can come to this museum and see art and learn about industry and peek into culture. And in the process, this is an opportunity for you to see everything about what's going on, from Western Maryland to Southern Maryland," says Draper. "The museum is located in Baltimore, but it's certainly about more than Baltimore."

Much of the museum's focus will be on educating schoolchildren about the African-American experience. The state Board of Education has adopted a curriculum geared toward educational opportunities offered by the museum. A pilot program involving 118 teachers was begun last fall. In September, all public, as well as many private, schools will begin offering the curriculum in grades K-12, in history, art, music, literature, geography and economics.

Call the museum at 443-263-1800 or visit its Web site at www.africanamerican culture.org.