Spice Grinder Used to Make Old Bay on Display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry Out on Key Highway

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Friday was busy with appointments and last minute preparation for an art show in Rockville, but N. got me out on the bike with a set of clues that led me down to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where she got me a membership for my birthday last week. That’s a really, really good present for a girl like me. It was a quick ride down to the pedestrian-packed ring around the harbor–that’s just going to get better or worse, depending on your perspective. I got off the bike to squeeze past the guys laying new concrete around a fire hydrant–that concrete had a message written into it by the time I rode back–and then dodged the grates and cars on Key Highway. I signaled and took my left into the museum’s parking lot and joined two other bikes on the rack. I love it when I’m not the only bike! I was ostensibly there for the Antietam Banjo Association conference, but they turned out to be reservation-only. I didn’t have one, so I spent my time checking out the banjo exhibit instead. Turns out the first mentions of the banjo in the U.S. were in advertisements seeking the capture of enslaved people who had escaped to freedom. The instrument was used mostly by African Americans before being used in blackface minstrelsy shows. Eventually white people played them without the blackface, and they became the sterotypical instrument of choice for poor white Southerners and Appalachians. Totally interesting, and I carried that story of movement, appropriation, and the politics of cultural life with me as I wandered through the rest of the museum, past the linotype machine and the Wall of Firsts (Baltimore is home to some pretty great firsts) and the canning displays and this spice grinder used to make Old Bay. Industrial museums are an odd form of nostalgia. And then it was time to get back up the hill, so I was on my way, joining the traffic and regretting the choice to not let N. put sunscreen on my back. I have to get over how little I like that smell and feel, because it’s all sun from here on out.

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