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About Us > Interpretive Framework

Without thoughtful interpretation, visitors to Baltimore might never experience the wealth of the city’s heritage resources. In 2012, the Baltimore National Heritage Area engaged our local partners to craft a new interpretive plan that defines the concepts that characterize Baltimore’s heritage and provides interpretive themes that resonate throughout the city. During the planning process, a workgroup identified an overarching theme and four primary interpretive themes for the heritage area.

Overarching Theme
The overarching theme, in just a few words, attempts to capture the essence of the National Heritage Area’s importance and meaning to Baltimoreans, Americans, and our guests from around the world.

American Identity
Citizens in Baltimore helped secure American independence, forge a national identity, and establish a notable center of commerce and culture on the Chesapeake Bay.

Primary Themes
Although the four primary themes are not strictly chronological, they are related to historical periods.  Theme 1 focuses on the War of 1812 and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  Theme 2 focuses on the early history of Baltimore and its foundations.  Theme 3 covers the maturation of Baltimore as a great city and includes the present.  Theme 4 has a strong connection to the Civil War era and the continuing struggle for civil rights during the last 150 years.

1. Upholding Independence
During the early 1800s, Americans fought in Baltimore to uphold the independence of the United States, and their determination still inspires us today.

2. Seeking Prosperity
The Chesapeake Bay's rich resources drew enterprising men and women to Baltimore seeking prosperity.

3. Shaping a Monumental City
The largest city in the Chesapeake Bay watershed brought forth distinctive industries, technologies, architecture, and enduring cultural and artistic traditions.

4. Gaining Freedom for All
Baltimore has long welcomed diverse peoples, leading to controversy and conflict—as in the Civil War— but also to reconciliation and greater freedom for all.

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