11/14/10 573 W, 8 I - + 6 - 4 The Fire Museum Network

On Halloween weekend, a unique meeting of fire service enthusiasts was convened in Lutherville, Maryland. That's an unincorporated community just north of Baltimore, and one-half of the Lutherville-Timonium census district. It's also the reason Lutherville might be missing as a destination when entered by name into your GPS.

Timonium is the location of the Maryland State Fairgrounds, and they hosted a haunted house that particular Friday and Saturday night. We saw the signs. A high-speed rail line runs through there, too. In case you were wondering about rail access. Lutherville, on the other hand, might be a bit more familiar as the location of the Maryland Fire Museum.

That place is a piece of fire apparatus heaven, with dozens of antique rigs on display and including two, count 'em two, water towers. Hand engines, steam engines, triple combinations, hand-drawn hose reels, horse-drawn ladder trucks, they've got a bit of everything.

The museum was the host of this year's Fire Museum Network annual seminar. The four-day event brought together museum operators, aspiring museum-ers, historical society members, private collection owners, and other individuals interested in our favorite type of specialty museum.


Some 80 attendees were there. By my count, they hailed from 21 states as well as the United Kingdom. They represented organizations of varying size and scope, from the fledgling Raleigh Fire Department Historical Society (hello!) to the long-established Fireman's Hall Museum of Philadelphia. Statewide fire museums were present from Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Texas. And maybe one or two others.

We split our time between the museum and a nearby hotel. Saturday was a full day of workshops, on topics including museum lighting, archives and collection care, and interpreting the histories and presenting the stories of a fire museum's collection. Yours Truly also took a few pictures, since he and his cameras were there already. See more workshop shots.


The attendees and speakers were exceptionally friendly, the workshops were immensely informative, and the museum-based activities were absolutely enjoyable. Notable was Lantern Night on Saturday night at the Maryland Fire Museum. Candles. Dimmed lights. People in period costumes.  

Two telegraph stations were working, with period-dressed telegraphers wiring messages to each other. Others demonstrated the museum's working electric-telegraph fire alarm system. And we're talkin' the full monty. Alarm box signal sent to working dispatch center and retransmitted to working watch desk. See pictures from Lantern night, plus two sets of photos taken earlier at the museum: Set #1 and Set #2.

There were other museum-based events, but which were skipped by Yours Truly. Bus tour on Sunday to fire museums in Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Bus tours on Monday, to fire museums in Alexandria, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. Here are photos of all five museum, taken on earlier dates by myself.

The Fire Museum Network began as a program at the International Association of Fire Chief's annual convention. Their first meeting was in 1989 in Indianapolis. They organized as their own organization in 2004-2005, and held their first annual meeting in Indianapolis in 2005. Since then they've met in Columbus (OH), Denver, Aurora (IL), Phoenix, and this year outside Baltimore. Next year, they'll meet outside Detroit, with the Michigan Fire Museum in Ypsilanti hosting.

Take a visit to the Fire Museum Network web site. Not only is there good stuff on the web site itself, but breadth of resources and a wide network of friendly people behind the sceness.

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