It has been a long six years since I wrote Fort McHenry I, and now I’m back for seconds. That’s not really quite how it happened. I didn’t even remember I had written an article already about Fort McHenry and I had to google my own site. So there you go. A lot has changed since that first blog post. I joined the Peace Corps. I went to grad school. And most importantly, I got myself a super amazing girlfriend who had never been to Fort McHenry and likes history and stuff. So off we went!
Not a lot has changed since that fateful day six years ago. There is still a very nice video, still a dramatic reveal of the fort at the end, still the dredged-up cannonballs. So that all is very cool. I included the above picture because I noticed there is a dearth of centuries-old hardtack or bread, which I now know, with my age and wisdom, are essential parts of history museums. I also took a picture of the funniest line in the museum, which was (after the War of 1812) “The United States never again attempted to conquer Canada.” That could change, Canada! Watch your back.
The biggest weakness I noticed about the museum this time around however was its pretty uncritical stance on Francis Scott Key. He is still firmly in the Good Guy category by almost all counts. Back during my Plebe Summer at the Naval Academy, we took a YP up to Baltimore for a training event. On the way into Baltimore harbor there is a star-studded buoy to mark the spot where Francis wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner.” As we passed the buoy, we all manned the rails and saluted and stuff to honor such a literary triumph (to get even more side-tracked in my complaint here, they also laud Key for being like, a fantastic poet. The original title of the poem called it “Fort M’Henry.” He couldn’t even figure out a way to rhyme properly the thing he was talking about! Anyways).
But man was Key not an all-around good guy. This Washington Post article outlines all the ways both the anthem and Key were fairly racist. The Land of the Free firmly did not include Black people. The best the museum musters, however, are a few paragraphs off to one side where it notes “Francis Scott Key was a man of contradictions,” saying such deep things like he was against bloodshed but also wanted to defend his country, and as a lawyer he represented both slaveholders and free African Americans. The “man of contradictions” argument I think is a pretty lazy way of avoiding having to take a firm stance on whether slavery was okay or not even if it was 1814. They can do better.
But after the museum we went out to explore the fort. Once again of course we went o’er the ramparts (such a great poet) and enjoyed what was just an absolutely gorgeous day. My super amazing girlfriend had never been to Baltimore before and this was a great way to see how and why Baltimore is still such an important port, and get some sun, and admire some cannons. Although there is an admission fee for the museum and the fort, the grounds are open to the public, and people were using it to walk their dog and read books while eating lunch and lounge in the shade and it was just such a fantastic public space.
Fort M’Henry though was just the first stop in a whole Baltimore adventure. From there we got some lunch and checked out a used bookstore, and then went up to Federal Hill to admire the city and nearly get the car stuck on a dead-end street. After a stop by the wonderful Neighborhood Fiber Co., we finally made our way to the Walters Art Museum.
Baltimore actually has a stunning bevy of art museums, and most at an extremely convenient price of free. The Walters started off as the private collection of um the Walters, and so much of it has a rich person with a hobby vibe, but they have since branched out and the collection is impressive, overwhelmingly so if you have already had a full day of adventures. One of my personal favorite parts of the Walters is the wunderkammer room, pictured above, which is where I draw most of my decorating inspiration from. As you can clearly see from the photo my super amazing girlfriend agrees and we will start doing our own apartment up that way as soon as possible.
Another huge and excellent part of the museum is their collection of Asian art, which is really what the hobby of the Walters was. They were big into southeast Asian art and man it must be wild to be rich, and just let a lot of people know you are willing to buy some Buddha statues, and next thing you know you have hundreds and hundreds of Buddha statues. Now that I think about it though my mom decided one day that she was into otters (this was to fend off her mother’s previous notion that she was into teddy bears), and now she has quite an extensive collection of otters (like, pictures and statues and stuff, not real otters), so maybe we can all glimpse that lifestyle if we really try. Anyways this whole paragraph was just to have an excuse to display the above picture, “Lovers near a Duck Pond,” which, you know, speaking of decorating, I always wanted to have a duck pond.
Anyways I should note that when we were there their big temporary exhibit was the wonderfully named “Majolica Mania.” Majolica is a type of pottery and they really went wild back in the day with the designs and it was extremely impressive what they could do with it. The really exciting part was the extremely colorful lead glaze. My personal favorite pieces was the above set of tea wares because they look like they are tiki and I do love me a tiki aesthetic until I think way too hard about colonialism.
After that we packed up and went home, having had a wonderful day in the wonderful city of Baltimore. It won’t be our last day there, since there is still an aquarium to go to and several boats to visit, but until then, it was a pretty excellent day!