Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities, from Museum Wormianum, 1655. Original source from: Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum proudly proclaims itself as “The Ultimate Pop Culture Experience.” When you step through the doors and behold the awe-inspiring collection of nearly 6,000 pop culture artifacts including comics, toys, dolls, games and memorabilia of every conceivable category, it becomes clear that they live up to their claim.
If you have ever seen an image of a cabinet of wonders, dating as far back as the 1500’s, it is clear where the curator got their inspiration for the museum. In times of antiquities, these cabinets, or “Wunderkammer,” were filled with relics of nature, archeology, works of art and antiques. Now take those magical items and replace them with equally magical remnants of American pop culture from the last 250 years, and you find yourself in Geppi’s Entertainment Museum.
The story of Geppi’s begins with its namesake, Steve Geppi, whose love of comics combined with great success has allowed for the museum to exist today. Geppi first opened a comic book store called Geppi’s Comic World, and in 1974 launched Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest distributor of English language comic books in the world. As his success grew, he founded Gemstone Publishing, Diamond International Galleries, Diamond Select Toys and acquired other fine firms such as Alliance Game Distributors, Baltimore Magazine, E. Gerber Products, Hake’s Americana & Collectibles, and Morphy Auctions.
Though the museum boasts an extensive collective of comics, including most if not all issue #1’s, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum reaches far beyond just the comic book realms, and collects and displays all forms of pop culture. The curators work tirelessly to assemble, arrange, and organize the collection in a way that is not only accessible, but also delivers a tour de force of nostalgic memorabilia.
A brief examination of the museums layout provides a glimpse into the mind and passion of Geppi and his team. Each room, separately named, and organized based on time period, provides a look into the wonderful realm of American popular culture over more than two centuries. In many ways, by examining pop culture, we can see the underlying story of America unfold. The “Story in 4 Colors” room, devoted entirely to comic books, provides a microcosm of the entire story and the entire museum.
From there, the rooms are divided by time period. From 1895-1927, we have the “Extra! Extra!” room, which explores comic strips in newspapers as the main mode of delivery for pop culture. From 1925-1945, the need to escape from hard times could be found in the newspaper comic pages, on radio shows and at the movies. Charles Lindbergh’s historic journey inspired high-flying heroes from Mickey Mouse to Superman. When America faced its darkest hour, comic characters led the way to victory.
Moving right along, 1936-1960 is represented in the room titled “America Tunes In,” which explores the effect that television had on American culture. The “Revolution” room covers 1961-1970, where British rock and roll and total upheaval was taking place within the states.
“Expanding Universe” covers the time from 1971-1990, and celebrates our shift into the information economy when affordable video recorders, computers, video game systems and even fast food franchises provided new avenues for pop culture characters to become part of our lives and take us as far as the stars. “Going Global” is the final stop on the tour, which explores are fairly recent voyages into a multimedia world. Even with all of these rooms, perhaps the museum’s greatest, or at least tallest, experience, is the hallway, lined from floor to ceiling with posters and two dimensional artwork.
As much as the museum stands as a collection of pop culture, it also serves as an examination of merchandising. Most, if not all of the museums artifacts were produced after licensing the names and images from the companies who created them, providing a fascinating look at branding, marketing, and product placement.
In the museum’s mission statement, Geppi explains that “Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to see pop culture entertainment in the setting it deserves.”
“Take a look around the Museum,” he says, “and you’ll see that the history of popular culture is so tightly woven into the social fabric of the United States of America that it parallels and reinforces mainstream history.”
One thing you notice instantly when walking into the museum is that it is filled with characters we all know and love. First seen in newspapers, magazines, comic books, movies, radio or television, characters have made some of the greatest spokesmen the advertising world has ever witnessed. Each time a new form of media has emerged, fresh characters have sprung up and older, successful ones have been revived, helping to popularize products from, juice, milk, other beverages, bread, cereal and candy to a dazzling array of consumer products. Through this process, a wide range of characters has been instilled in the American psyche.
Whether you are a fan of Disney, the Beatles, Roy Roger, or Mandrake the Magician, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum has something for everyone. Children quickly find themselves lost in a world of wonder and magic, and adults suddenly find themselves thinking and acting like children. In many ways, for older generations, the museum serves as a portal into the past. Nostalgia abound, we find ourselves confronted with the images, brands, characters, and memories of our former years.
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is located in Campden Yards, just steps from the stadium. The museum is open on Tuesdays-Sundays 10am-6pm, and can be found in the same building as the Sports Legend Museum on Campden Street.
Geppi’s Museum is also the site for What Weekly’s FritzBall Dance Party this Saturday Night (September 15, 2012), where you can take in all that the museum has to offer, with the added touch of dance music by DJ El Suprimo, beatboxer SHODEKEH, Swordswallower Dai Andrews, and more!
Click here for more information on Geppi’s Entertainment Museum.
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