December 21, 2015

Photo Essay: Baltimore's Misfit Museum of Pop Culture

I knew I wouldn't have much time during my first trip to Baltimore, so I had to be pretty picky when planning my explorations.

But at the top of my list was Geppi's Entertainment Museum—even though I had no real idea what exactly I was about to experience there. I couldn't even find it at first and wandered around the Camden Yards complex trying door after door, each one feeling more locked than the last.

I figured if its obscurity was any indication of the level of intrigue that surrounds this place, I would be in for a treat.

And I was right.

Geppi's is, at the most basic level, a pop culture museum full of figurines and collectibles.

But it's one with a message.

You see, it's situated at the confluence of comic books, cartoon characters, advertising, and entertainment.

In the early to mid-20th century, there wasn't much delineation between those categories...

...but at least it was obvious.

Still, since the inception of television, commercials have always felt a bit like content...

...and sometimes content feels just like a commercial.

I mean, all Little Orphan Annie really wanted you to do...

...was drink your Ovaltine.

Does a toy that tries to sell you Tastykakes cease to be a toy?

Wandering through this collection of artifacts feels like examining the finds of an archaeological dig.

Everything seems so old and well-worn.

The faces don't even look like ours.

What civilization could have crafted these?

Who could possibly identify with these unnerving creatures?

Be they prehistoric...


...or just generally dysmorphic...

...they will scare the kit and caboodle out of our descendants...

...who will think we must've been out of our minds, or trying to conjure some kind of naturalism or spiritualism or religiosity through magical talking animals.

Of course, once I got to an era I recognized from my own past—Rainbow Brite and the like—I completely lost interest. Those are memories I'd rather not conjure. Those are images I'd rather be unfamiliar.

Just as I only got a glimpse of the city itself, I'm sure my visit to Geppi's Entertainment Museum gave me only a passing glance of their collection, and that I've only captured a fraction of it here.

I wonder what a museum like this is doing in Baltimore, where it's an outlier among all the historic homes and military memorabilia. You'd expect it maybe in Vegas alongside the Pinball Hall of Fame...or maybe in Cleveland near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...or Nashville or Memphis or Branson.

But maybe I don't know enough about Baltimore yet to say whether or not Geppi's belongs there.

And maybe if it doesn't belong there, that's a perfect reason why that's exactly where it should be.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Glimpses of Baltimore
Photo Essay: The Wall of Toys at the Garden of Oz
The Art of Master Puppeteer Bob Baker, Upon His Passing
Trinkets and Treats at a Victorian House Museum
Obsessive Collector of Experiences

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