If you thought that college was the only place to attend lectures on the Gilded Age, the Meiji period or the Han Dynasty, you would be mistaken.
Look no further than the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show. Running today through Sunday, the 27th annual show will feature its first lecture series. Six lectures will be led by industry collectors, dealers and professionals who will highlight antiques specific to different periods. Today at 3 p.m., Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum, will lead a discussion on a jewelry collection from the Gilded Age. Other lectures will cover such topics as Satsuma earthenware, smiling Sichuan statues, living and decorating with antiques and book collecting.
The lecture series is free and doesn't require admission to the show. Series organizer Judy Opel, a Baltimore native, says that the lectures are a good way to expand the show's reach and provide a service to the community.
"By keeping the lectures free, we're giving the public an opportunity to learn about the world of antiques," Opel says. "The lectures are a good way to spark the interest of someone new to the industry."
Everything people have come to expect at the show is relatively unchanged. There are still more than 550 international dealers of antique jewelry, furniture, fine art, silver, porcelain, books and more. Nonetheless, things have been changing.
The lecture series is just one of the changes that the antiques show has undergone in the past two years. The most notable change is in the ownership. In October 2005, Frank Farbenbloom, who owned and operated the Baltimore Antiques Show for 25 years, sold it to the Palm Beach Show Group. After two years of operating the Palm Beach Jewelry and Antique Show in Florida, the Palm Beach Show Group jumped at the opportunity to acquire another show.
"The Baltimore show was already great," says Kris Charamonde, co-managing partner of the Palm Beach Show Group. "However, the show wasn't heavily promoted and little had changed over the years. ... We saw enormous potential."
Charamonde says that Baltimore's geography makes it a prime location for an international show. It's in the middle of the East Coast, close to many metropolitan areas and it's easily accessible by plane. These characteristics, Charamonde says, make it an excellent rendezvous point for dealers in the United States and the rest of the world.
The sale marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. According to Opel, the original goal of the Palm Beach Group was to incorporate slow change into the show to make it more eclectic and accessible to enthusiasts of different antiques styles. Another goal was to attract more visitors.
To do this in its first year of ownership, the Palm Beach Group put considerable time and resources into what Charamonde calls "an integrated marketing program." In 2006, the show's regular attendance tripled from 10,000 visitors in a weekend to 30,000.
The Palm Beach Show Group also added a fourth day (Thursday) to the show. Charamonde said that the addition of the fourth day had a huge effect on attendance and the kinds of dealers that attended the show.
"Most international shows are four days," he said. "A dealer from Paris might not make the trip if the show is only three. A four-day show allows more dealers from different parts of the world to make the trip."
Last year, large velvet-covered walls were used to spruce up the appearance of the show floor. According to Charamonde, decor will also be emphasized this year as organizers attempt to make the showroom look more like a museum exhibit or gallery.
"Our goal is to make the show a cultural event," Charamonde says. "We want it to be more than strictly a retail event or trade show. We want to create an environment where dealers can sell not only to the public, but to each other."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: -- 27th annual Baltimore Summer Antiques Show
WHEN: -- Today through Sunday
WHERE: -- Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St.
HOURS: -- Noon-8 p.m. today, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
PRICE: -- $12 today and $8 tomorrow through Sunday
For more information: -- balti moresummerantiques.com
This year, an educational lecture series will debut. The lectures are daily and don't require attendees to purchase an admission ticket because they are on a different floor of the convention center.
Henry Walters & the Greatest Jewelry Collection of the Gilded Age: -- Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum, will lecture at 3 p.m.
The Meiji Period: Golden Age of Satsuma Earthenware: -- Matthew Baer of the Ivory Tower Inc. will speak at 1 p.m.
Living and Decorating with Antiques: -- Stiles Colwill, owner and president of Stiles T. Colwill Interiors, will present at 3 p.m.
Smiling Sichuan Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE): -- Michael C. Teller IV, president and founder of TK Asian Antiquities and an authority on Chinese antiquities, will lecture at 1 p.m.
The Development of English and American Silver for the Dining Room: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: -- Martin Chasin, founder of Martin Chasin Fine Art and specialist in 18th-century antiques, will lecture at 3 p.m.
Collecting Your Passion: Adventures with Books: -- Ian Kahn, owner of Lux Mentis - a seller specializing in first editions, esoterica and heirloom-quality books - will speak at 1 p.m.