The Municipal Museum (commonly referred to as the Peale Museum) was created in 1931 following a public protest against the sale and possible demolition of the old museum building. The building was constructed in 1814, the first museum building in the United States, when Rembrandt Peale established "The Baltimore Museum and Gallery of Paintings;" this museum flourished until 1833 when its contents were finally sold and dispersed. This building was used as the City Hall (1830-75), a public school (1876-87), offices of the water board (1887-1915), and for private businesses (1915-28). The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Since 1931 the Municipal Museum has collected paintings, prints, photographs, furniture, and decorative arts related to Baltimore as well as sponsored lectures, publications, exhibitions, and other educational programs on the city's history. In the mid 1950's and through the 1960's the museum was a driving force in the beginning of a historic preservation movement in Baltimore. The museum also operates the Carroll Mansion (1966), the Washington Monument (1967), and the Old Town Meeting House (1968).
For further information on the Municipal Museum see the following articles by Wilbur Harvey Hunter: The Story of America's Oldest Museum Building, Peale Museum Historical Series, no. 8 (Baltimore: Peale Museum, 1964); The Peale Family and Peale's Baltimore Museum, 1814-1830 (Baltimore: Peale Museum, 1965); "The Tribulations of a Museum Director in the 1820s," Maryland Historical Magazine 49 (September 1954): 214-22; and "Peale's Baltimore Museum," College Art Journal 12 (Autumn 1952): 31-36. Other related studies include Thomas S. Eader, "The Carroll Mansion in Baltimore," Antiques 109 (February 1976): 336-44; John C. Schmidt, "Cheek by Jowl with the Real World," Baltimore 60 (February 1967): 24 ff., an interview with Hunter, the Director of the museum from 1946 to 1978; and Helen Straw Whitmore, "The Carroll Mansion, 800 East Lombard Street, Baltimore, Maryland: An Historical and Architectural Study, "M.S., University of Maryland, 1969.
Postscript: Privatized in 1993 and renamed the Baltimore City Life Museum (BCLM), the institution contained four floors of interactive exhibits and galleries at its new 33 S. Front Street headquarters, The BCLM also administered several historical sites in Baltimore. Financial problems, however, plaqued the museum and it closed in 1997. The collections were transferred to the Maryland Historical Society for safekeeping.