Harford County is home to an abundance of museums, and Havre de Grace is home to an especially large concentration of them. For many years, the two most high profile museums were the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum and the recently defunct Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Even as the museum at APG had for many years been the Harford County museum with the most visitors, the Decoy Museum managed to stand out and serve as something of an inspiration for other small museums in Havre de Grace. The success of the various Havre de Grace museums – and to some degree of the museum at APG – long has been a combination of not only the ability to attract tourist visitors, but also to attract dedicated groups of hard-working volunteers.
In the case of the museum at APG, it long has had a strong contingent of boosters and volunteers in the community who recently were snubbed by the federal government when a decision was made that there would be no post-BRAC re-opening of the museum.
In the case of the various museums in Havre de Grace, they have vibrant followings that organize various fundraisers and engage in other activities. To a large degree, even if the museums had no out-of-town visitors, they would serve a valuable function insofar as they serve as the backdrop to any number of social activities for people living in and around the city. The same goes for other small museums and historical organizations across Harford County and beyond.
The latest example of the benefit afforded to the communities by museums in Harford County came last week when the people behind the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum asked for an endorsement from the city council of a museum effort to add an environmental education center to the Lafayette Street museum. Turning the Maritime Museum and the surrounding area, including the nearby Decoy Museum into an educational center was the dream of the late Anna Long, a former Havre de Grace City Council member and a tireless volunteer.
The city council needed only to provide moral support, as museum organizers are hopeful to demonstrate there's community backing as they seek corporate financing for what sounds like a fairly ambitious project.
The Maritime Museum is more comparable to the Maryland Science Center than to the Baltimore Museum of Art in its daily function. While it has artifacts and displays, it long has been more of a center for teaching historic seafaring methods to new generations. It has been home to a wooden boat building class, and the fruits of this endeavor have been rather impressive.
Adding an environmental education component that is hoped to have classroom facilities and lab benches would enhance this hands-on approach to historic preservation.
The effort shows the potential strength of volunteer organizations when it comes to enhancing the community, and also offers a glimmer of hope that such efforts could eventually result in the museum on APG re-emerging as well sometime in the future.