But last week the
On Wednesday, the city Board of Estimates is expected to approve a measure allowing the Poe House to partner with the B&O Railroad Museum as it seeks to reestablish itself on independent footing. Under the plan, the city would award the railroad museum a one-time $185,000 contract (out of funds raised by the Poe House over the years) to employ its professional staff in assisting the Poe House to reinterpret its mission, redesign its exhibits and reorganize its programs. In addition, the B&O staff will help the Poe House create a new website, develop videos for its galleries and online, adopt new marketing and branding strategies and assist in recruiting new board members.
After decades of operating on a shoestring budget — the city subsidy to the Poe House was just $85,000 last year — setting the institution on a new, more ambitious path won't be easy. But it is by no means impossible. Despite the challenges the museum faces, including a tiny space that limits the number of visitors the galleries can accommodate and a somewhat off-the-beaten path location in a distressed urban neighborhood, the Poe House also enjoys a number of advantages that give cause for hope.
Among them are its proximity to the Poppleton redevelopment area, which is bringing new businesses, apartment buildings and residents to the neighborhood, as well as an adjacent city-owned lot that is currently vacant but eventually could be transformed into a site for a visitor center, gift shop and additional parking. One idea that has been floated for making the museum more accessible involves ticketed tours via shuttle bus from the railroad museum to the Poe House and back, which would encourage many more visitors to seek out the opportunity to explore Poe's Baltimore legacy.
It's quite feasible for the Poe House Museum to be viable without city support given a little sprucing up and some expert assistance from its partners at the railroad museum. If it can raise the estimated $200,000 to $300,000 needed to operate independently, there's no reason the museum can't get through this transition and emerge as an even more inviting destination for visitors. Its new board might start with the Baltimore Ravens football team, which has capitalized handsomely on his legacy, taking its name from his poem, "The Raven." If a few players could be persuaded to take the poet's home under their wing, it would help enormously.