It was a chilly but clear Thursday night as my husband and I dined at Ida B’s (can’t ever say enough great things about an authentic Soul Food Kitchen with African-American owners), and then dove head first into the past. The Peale is currently offering Time Travel Tours. A brainchild of our favorite off-beat magician, David London. If you are willing to embark on this journey, you will travel back in time to Rembrandt Peale’s study in 1818.
Your journey begins with a brief tour of The Peale Museum which is a fascinating property with a rich history. The whole thing is amazing, but for a brief overview- the Peale family were taxidermists, painters, and opened the first museum in America here in Baltimore. They also began Gaslamp lighting, deeming Baltimore the city of light- and starting the conglomerate now known as BG&E. You are then introduced to a time machine- a wonderfully delightful creation with all kinds of whirly gigs and swirly things. But you can’t operate it just yet, not only because you failed to read a large book on its mechanisms, but also because you need to find a few things first. Insert the “inverse escape room” element. You must find several pieces of key information, including keys, to activate the time machine and thus begin your journey into the past.
The story is that time travelers from 2068 came back 50 years into the past to leave a briefcase at the Peale. It contained several items, one of which was the plans for this time machine to allow guest to go back 200 more years into the past and visit. The question posed at the end is why? And we did not have an answer. I assume there is some underlying message of importance but I lost it in the shuffle of butterflies, portraits, taxidermy, sea serpents, mastodon bones, early movie projectors and more! It was quite the adventure!
David London is always so amusing and charming it is hard to find fault in his whirlwind ideas. I feel sometimes like he is moving at about 100 mph, and I am lagging behind at approximately 60ish. He has so much to convey and jumps from explanation to explanation quickly and excitedly. His enthusiasm is contagious and several things have escaped me since I left, I feel like maybe I needed to record some of his musings. His character is part mad scientist, part Doctor Who, part magician, and part surly old chap. His fascination with carnivals, sideshows, Barnum, and the Peales has now lead to several interesting evening events that blend history, magic, spectacle, and now, add to the roster, escape room.
Once the time machine fires up, it opens the door in time (an actual door) that upon entering walks you back in time to the study of Peale, but the way it would have appeared in 1818 at this actual location. You are invited to touch and walk and explore. It is a bit more interactive than an actual museum, you are encouraged to play a bit and carefully probe your surroundings. There is a cool invention of augmented reality where, upon locating a missing object, you can zoom in on objects from the past and see them in “real view” of what they looked like in 1818- via a time stamp- in essence what was going on in the actual study, or mind, of the people in this room, 200 years ago.
Although we had an enjoyable evening, perhaps I would have liked to more about our mission. I don’t know why we did it other than the novelty. And if there was a message to be conveyed perhaps when I return to the present it could be presented. There is so much crammed into such a small amount of time, it is hard to wrap your brain around all of it. I assume though, that the spiraling information is part of the inward inquiry that leads you to a journey of other times and places.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? This is a lovely deviation from the convention of standard theater. It entices you to go beyond the realms of passive participant and find, manipulate, touch, and explore the past. It is a great reminder of the childlike wonder found in all of us. Do yourself a favor and stop in- each night is limited to ten guests, we had a great time, but I think this would be most enjoyable with a small group of friends!
Running through March 3rd. Check the website for a full list including tea time in the past, and by the minute time travel tours. https://www.thepealecenter.org/events/time-travel-tours-at-the-peale-2018-12-13/
Standard time tours are about 90 minutes long.