Bookish History in Baltimore

Geo-Poe
Geo-Poe

Geo-Poe

Tomorrow night, Next Edit Travel’s editors will be reading their Edgar Allan Poe-inspired stories as part of Geo-Poe, a “literary geo-caching adventure.” Fourteen well-known local authors will read at Westminster Hall, a spot that has been called the spookiest place in Baltimore, and the site of Poe’s grave.

It is a free event as part of Free Fall Baltimore and in partnership with Poe Baltimore, you just need to register.

Where: Westminster Hall, 519 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
When: Wednesday, October 29, 7:00 p.m.
Website: http://citylitproject.org/index.cfm?page=news&newsid=150

If you are in the city to visit Poe’s grave and other literary landmarks, there are many additional bookish spots worthy of your attention. Here are a few:

Kelmscott Books

Baltimore’s largest antiquarian bookseller is located at 34 W. 25th Street (near Charles and 25th Streets) on what was once “Bookstore Row.” The name of the store is a nod to William Morris and it specializes in Arts and Crafts-related books, including books about books. With 30,000 books in inventory – from the 1600s to present – the shop offers many temptations for the bibliophile. I found an affordable signed mystery just last week. The store also has genuine bookstore cats who provide security and greet customers.

Kelmscott Bookstore Cat of Awesomeness
Kelmscott Bookstore Cat of Awesomeness

Hours: Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Saturday by appointment only.
Website: http://www.kelmscottbookshop.com/

The Enoch Pratt Free Library

The Enoch Pratt Free Library began serving the citizens of Baltimore in 1886, making it one of the oldest free public library systems in the U.S. The Central Library, located at 400 Cathedral Street (near Cathedral and Mulberry Streets), is also Maryland’s State Library Resource Center. It is a beautiful building with an open floor plan in the entryway that extends to galleries on the second floor. They offer patrons a children’s room, exhibits (Maurice Sendak is up now), classes for kids and adults, author events, and special collections. The library also hosts the annual City Lit Festival in April. Next time you are in there, explore the building.

Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Sun. 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (October-May)
Website: http://www.prattlibrary.org/

 The Peabody Library

The Peabody Library is near the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon (17 East Mount Vernon Place). Started in 1860, a few decades before the Enoch Pratt Library, the Peabody’s collection of more than 300,000 books is mostly from the 18th and 19th century with a focus on the humanities, as well as maps. Much of their collection is online, including the library’s printed catalog, Catalog of the Library of the Peabody Institute, from 1883 and 1896. If you like books, this is an incredibly beautiful space.

Hours: Tuesday -Thursday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 
Website: http://guides.library.jhu.edu/content.php?pid=205178&sid=1712833

Indiana Medical History Museum

Indiana Medical History Museum, Journal of Insanity
Indiana Medical History Museum, Journal of Insanity

“So…how long will you be here for?” the cab-driver asked in his heavy African patois. With our conference over, the three of us – Marilyn, Kat, and myself – had but a few hours left to explore Indianapolis before heading out for our respective home states; I nearly answered as much, until I saw the cabbie warily assessing a few distressed homes and unkempt yards surrounding us.

Indiana Medical History Museum, Indianapolis, IN
Indiana Medical History Museum, Indianapolis, IN

“An hour – maybe two,” I said, recognizing the seemingly questionable sense of three out-of-towners dodging the well-attended confines of their downtown hotel for a destination three-and-a-half miles west, in a neighborhood that grew rougher-looking by the block.

“Ah, good,” the cabbie said, exhaling his concern. “This neighborhood…might not find a cab back so easy.”

Indiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum

The four of us stared incredulously at the large, empty field surrounded by wire fence when his GPS announced our arrival about a half-mile later. It was Marilyn who finally noticed the non-descript sign that stood watch at the entrance to a long, flat driveway: INDIANA MEDICAL HISTORY MUSEUM.

“This is it,” said Kat, pointing down the lane.

Indiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum

The driver headed slowly through the open gate, coming to a stop a few hundred yards later in front of the Old Pathology Building, which houses the museum. The driver handed Marilyn a business card.

IMHM dept

“You call this number when you are ready for pick-up,” he said. “They will send a driver for you.”

We stood before the brick Victorian as the cab pulled off. Built in 1895, the structure is one of the few remaining vestiges of the once-sprawling Central State Hospital, a self-contained psychiatric institution whose various incarnations operated on the site from the mid-19th century until its complete closure in 1994. Today, the Indiana Medical History Museum, housed in what was once called the Pathological Department Building, chronicles the earliest days of modern psychiatry and medicine.

Indiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum

Inside, we paid our admission and were directed to wait in the nearby anatomical museum for the next scheduled tour. Guided tours, which begin on the hour, are mandatory, and for good reason, to which the museum’s fragile artifacts and sometimes constrained presentation ultimately attest.

IMHM anatomical

With the arrival of a few more paying customers, a very knowledgeable docent named John led us on an informative tour of the museum’s key features, including its teaching amphitheater, clinical laboratories, photography lab, library, autopsy room, medicinal garden, and a small brick outbuilding known as the “Dead House”, where cadavers were once stored for extended periods of time.

Indiana Medical History Museum, Dead House
Indiana Medical History Museum, Dead House

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Indiana Medical History Museum lies in the immediacy of its displays, which often suggest a phantom staff of doctors, nurses, and administrators who were there one day and gone the next, leaving everything in its place. Photography is permitted throughout the building save for one upstairs room, which still houses old patient records. Ancient textbooks bearing titles like Sexual Truths and Journal of Insanity abound in nearly every room.

IMHM  Amphitheater

However, despite its collections of autopsy equipment and preserved biological specimens, the Indiana State Medical Museum’s presentation avoids ghoulish overtones, focusing instead on pioneering efforts to scientifically identify and treat various forms of mental illness. It will appeal to fans of places like the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia and Scotland’s Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (both stories for another time), and is well worth a jaunt for anyone living or staying in the Indianapolis vicinity. But those without their own transportation be warned: plan your return trip in advance.

IMHM brain model

INDIANA MEDICAL HISTORY MUSEUM
3045 West Vermont Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222
(317) 635-7329
Website: http://imhm.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/imhmuseum
Hours: Thursday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (last tour starts at 3:00 p.m.)
Cost: $10 (seniors $9; students $5, with valid ID)

Indiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum