- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 12, 2006

Mummies. Suits of armor. Amulets. Tablets of ancient hieroglyphics.

This is the stuff “Indiana Jones” movies are made of, as well as the kind of museum items that will captivate a school-age crowd. They are among the more than 30,000 works in the Walters Art Museum’s permanent collection.

The museum, in the Mount Vernon area of Baltimore, started out as the private collection of philanthropist Henry Walters, who in 1931 bequeathed his vast collection to the city of Baltimore for the public to enjoy. At the time, the collection, begun by his father, William Walters, held 22,000 items that covered thousands of years.

Today, the museum is a trip through 55 centuries. There is something for everyone, from history buffs to religious art enthusiasts. There are displays of third-century Roman jewelry and sculpture from 10th-century India. There are impressionist paintings from Edouard Manet, Oscar-Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley. There is a special exhibit on illuminated manuscripts.

The museum does a good job of putting the works in perspective. In most of the museum’s galleries, there is information about the era in which the art was created. This includes maps as well as a brief outline of what was occurring at that time in terms of religion and politics as well as socially and culturally.

The best way to take in the four-level museum is to pick up a free audio tour at the front desk. The recorded narration can be stopped and started as desired and has a special narration for families.

Take the 2,000-year-old bust of Roman Emperor Augustus. The family tour recording makes visitors think about who Augustus was and what the sculpture says about him.

“Why is half of his head missing?” asks the narrator. “Well, there was a veil attached with a flat clasp that at some point got lost.”

The narration explains that the statues used to have whole bodies, too.

“Statues of emperors used to be made with separate bodies and heads,” the narrator says. “That way, when there was a new ruler, it was easy to switch the heads.”

Families also can pick up packets that will supplement self-guided tours. The family guides are specialized, too. The one on ancient Greece highlights many works, explains more about them and tells visitors what to keep in mind when looking at various sculptures and figurines.

The museum also features a variety of family programs involving hands-on participation. Every Saturday, there are drop-in art activities as well as specialized docent-led tours at 11 a.m. (Tours also take place at 2 p.m. Sundays.) Free preschool programs featuring a story, a short tour and an art activity take place about twice a month, says museum public relations manager Amy Mannarino.

Not to be missed on a tour of the Walters is “Mightier Than the Sword: The Satirical Pen of KAL,” a large collection of the political cartoons of Kevin Kallaugher, aka KAL. Mr. Kallaugher was a cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun for 17 years and also a longtime cartoonist for the Economist. The special exhibit runs through Sept. 3.

The KAL exhibit is broken into small galleries, with a look at how Mr. Kallaugher saw former President Bill Clinton and the first President Bush, former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and current Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Baltimore Ravens, September 11, the Cold War and terrorism.

Along the way, printed explanations and descriptions from Mr. Kallaugher tell what he was thinking or trying to convey in his work.

Mr. Kallaugher’s longtime feud with Maryland politician William Donald Schaefer is given a large tribute here. There are displays of Mr. Schaefer throughout the years — in ink and in sculpture. Meanwhile, there is a quote from Mr. Schaefer: “KAL is just a morbid, nasty man. He’s a zero. I don’t know what else I can say about him.”

The artist regularly drops in to see the exhibit. One recent weekday, he was there with a group of friends and family members, giving them a personal tour.

He explained to them how he had learned to draw caricatures by showing a display of Bill Clinton cartoons.

“One of the most important elements of political cartoons is that everyone has a face,” he says. “Caricature is an important part of my cartoons. I first did a cartoon of Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas. I thought it wasn’t important if it was good, because I thought, ‘I’m never going to draw this guy again.’ As you can see, I drew him a lot over eight years in the White House.”

The KAL exhibit winds up with a hands-on room where visitors can see the history of cartoons, write a caption for a political cartoon, learn about the cartoon process, flip through cartoon books and learn the art of drawing exaggerated faces.

There is also an ongoing film loop in which the artist explains his work and the creative process.

When you go

Location: THE WALTERS ART MUSEUM IS AT 600 N. CHARLES ST. IN BALTIMORE

HOURS: THE MUSEUM IS OPEN FROM 10 A.M. TO 5 P.M. WEDNESDAY THROUGH SUNDAY. IT IS CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY. BEGINNING OCT. 1, ITS HOURS WILL CHANGE TO 11 A.M. TO 5 P.M. WEDNESDAY THROUGH SUNDAY; OPEN UNTIL 8 P.M. ON FRIDAY.

Admission: Adults, $10; seniors, $8; college students with ID, $6; ages 6 to 17, $2; children younger than 6 are admitted free. Beginning Oct. 1, admission to the museum will be free.

Directions: From the Beltway, take Interstate 95 north. Take Exit 53 to Interstate 395 (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). Take Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to a right on Druid Hill Avenue. Druid Hill Avenue becomes Centre Street. The Walters Art Museum will be on the left just past Cathedral Street.

Parking: Street, meter and lot parking are available nearby.

More information: 410/547-9000 or www.thewalters.org.

Notes:

• The Walters Art Museum has a collection of more than 30,000 objects from more than 50 centuries. The exhibits do a good job of explaining the historical context in which the works were created. Highlights of the museum include illuminated manuscripts, Roman statues and sarcophagi, suits of armor, ancient jewelry, and religious art.

• The temporary exhibit highlighting the work of political cartoonist Kevin “KAL” Kallaugher will run through Sept. 3.

• The museum features drop-in family programs on Saturdays as well as docent-led tours, family audio tours and special museum passports and packets.

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