Lewis Museum will open June 25

Sun Staff

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

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

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

The museum, which will focus on the lives, culture and history ofAfrican-Americans in Maryland, will create exhibitions that dovetail with acurriculum designed by the State Board of Education for use in kindergartenthrough 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-bornbusinessman and philanthropist whose foundation donated $5 million to theproject. It will be the second largest facility in the country dedicated tothe study and preservation of African-American history and culture. OnlyDetroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, at 120,000square feet, is larger.

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

The June opening will be the culmination of a decade of planning by formerCircuit 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 alot 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 75percent of the museum's operating costs during the first year.

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

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

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

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