Over the past 25 years the University of Baltimore has amassed a historical print collection of more than 1,600 images, dealing with the past of Baltimore, Maryland and America.
Many of these prints hang in various university buildings, and a temporary exhibit of about 50 selections from the collection also opened recently in the Langsdale Library gallery, outside the building's auditorium.
Here's hoping this is the first of a series of such exhibits, for given the size and scope of the collection, it is possible to imagine many interesting small theme shows drawn from it. Unfortunately, this mess doesn't constitute one of them.
The show, billed as "Early Baltimore: A Selected Exhibit of Historic Prints From the University of Baltimore Collection," opens with a large 19th century chromolithograph of "Washington's Triumphal Entry into New York, Nov. 25, 1783," which is, to say the least, tangential to the subject of early Baltimore.
It then goes on to such items as a picture of Washington and Lincoln shaking hands, the charge of the First Maryland Regiment in the Civil War, a map of Maryland and a 19th century view of a railroad track across the Susquehanna River, along with 19th and 20th century prints relating to Baltimore. A group of the 20th century prints by various artists including Don Swann, Dano Jackley and Leon Dolice are framed together; the Baltimore scenes in this group are accompanied by a 1932 Swann print of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Come on, now. Instead of trying to reflect some portion of the collection in a coherent way, this little show tries to deal with too many aspects of it and succeeds in reflecting none of them adequately in this ill-selected mishmash.
There are interesting pictures here, including an 1831 view of Baltimore from Federal Hill, an 1853 view of the city from Fairmount (south of the present Johns Hopkins Hospital), an 1875 print of City Hall, and an 1889 view of the city.
Other shows taken from the collection will be welcome if they are more narrowly defined and better thought out than this one.
The exhibit continues through May 31 at Langsdale Library of the University of Baltimore, Maryland Avenue and Oliver Street. Call (410) 333-2910.