We started our day, then, with the Fort McHenry National Historic Shrine. We drove into Baltimore in pouring rain, and entered the Visitor Center in the same. The entire building - and its exhibits - had obviously been redone for the anniversary, and it was really quite nice. There were a couple of exhibit pieces I liked a lot, but the real highlight was the new film about the Battle of Baltimore, which was exceptional.
However, the hands-down best part, and one I almost feel guilty for blogging about as the surprise of it was part of its appeal, was the end of the movie. The narrative talked proudly about a unifying national anthem, a chorus swelled in singing...and the entire screen raised up to show a huge window overlooking the fort and the flag waving proudly over it.
I'm not going to lie, I teared up.
|Viewing window after the film, though the flag wasn't exactly flying high on this rainy, overcast day.|
|LOVED this little interactive, about the different ways musicians have interpreted the national anthem over the years.|
As we left the Visitor Center, the rain let up, and as we entered the fort, the Park Rangers down there made the decision to swap out the small flag for a larger one (the flags flown over the fort are heavily weather-dependent, and there was a good panel explaining this on the path up). This was the cue for a really remarkable moment - the Rangers asked if anyone wanted to help raise the flag. After an initial moment of awkwardness, people sprinted from across the parade ground to help. It was a simple extraordinary experience that I suppose we would call "participatory" but was also incredibly meaningful - who doesn't want to raise the Star-Spangled Banner over Fort McHenry?
|I feel blasphemous saying this, but I almost think this moment would have been ruined by a historical lecture.|
We also visited the Baltimore Legends in Sport museum, which was really quite good. For me, a highlight was its use of oral history in its baseball galleries. It seemed like every exhibit case had a video or audio recording of someone connected with past teams, or with a resident who remembered key events in baseball history.
|This exhibit about the fire that destroyed the old baseball stadium had both this rather realistic lighting/design treatment as well as audio of Baltimore residents talking about their heartbreak in seeing the flames.|
|They did have a clever way of acknowledging donors, however - one plaque per home run!|