Wanderlust Wednesday: 24 Rather Staid Hours in Baltimore

A conference, a presentation, a cancelled train, and dinner at the Red Star in Fells Point. All in 24 hours.

The annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums was held in Baltimore (Bawlmer) last week. The last time I attended AAM’s annual meeting was in 2000, the last time it was in Baltimore. I had just graduated from the Museum Studies program at The George Washington University (yes there’s a “The” in the title). I was working at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I still fell into the category “emerging professional.”

Collection care and management is a topic that AAM meetings don’t often address sufficiently. I would be hard pressed to justify attending the meeting if I wasn’t speaking; there’s just not enough about preventive care of collections. I contributed to a session hosted by the American Institute for Conservation’s Collection Care Network – and it was a hit.  About 100 conference goers turned out to hear presentations by Rachael Arenstein, Patty Silence, and myself on working with conservation consultants, collaborating with engineers and custodial staff, and raising the visibility of collection care in institutions, respectively. We had lots of good comments and questions. We also have a great resource list which AAM said they would post on their website – anyone seen those handouts yet?

In Baltimore, was surprised to suddenly be the Baltimorean-in-the-know, which is pretty laughable. I know a little bit about Hampden, Fells Point, Canton, Federal Hill, and Woodbury, and most of my knowledge is from fifteen years ago. Baltimore is full of dive bars and seriously expensive restaurants. My most memorable dinner is cheap but fabulous crab cakes and a less fabulous chilly glass of red wine at 1 am at the Baltimore institution Sip ‘n Bite in Canton about 10 years ago. The restaurant seems to have been done over, visited by Guy Fieri, and gotten a jazzy website since then, but it’s a classic greasy spoon. Cobblestones and waterfront rate high for out-of-towners, and Fells Point feels authentic, compared to the worn 1980s Harborplace development. After a failed attempt to get into Thames Street Oyster House, we wandered over to the Red Star in Fells Point.   Red Star was cozy, but their crab dip didn’t have enough crab in it. They cloaked that fact with a healthy dose of horseradish, which was nice – but it wasn’t very crabby.

I spent the rest of my time in the Sheraton and the Baltimore Convention Center, spaces that might as well be the same in any American city, conference name tags, hotel disinfectant, and rather wild industrial carpet. Baltimore has lots to offer, but that will have to wait for another trip.

Here’s the Old Bay Crab Dip Recipe. And remember: more crab is never wrong.


About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.