The Building Exhibition and Lantern Slides contains a collection of nearly 1,000 glass lantern slides that document the exhibitions and interior and exterior of the Baltimore Museum of Art from its opening in 1923 through the 1950s. The collection also includes images of works in the BMA's collection, regional architecture, and decorative arts.
Donations from scholars, organizations, and schools helped build the slide collection beginning in the 1920s. To reach out to the community, the slides were circulated to the public through the Museum's Library. A 1939 BMA Membership campaign brochure listed the slides as one of eight major services offered by the Museum. According to the brochure, "The Museum places at the disposal of Baltimore its collection of some 6,500 slides- illustrating great works of all ages and countries. This collection of slides is in constant use. Groups, clubs, and organizations of every type throughout the city draw on the collection for material for their lectures. Teachers in the schools and professors in colleges borrow the slides and use them before groups that total thousands every year." Clearly these were an important resource for the community at the time, but with the increasing availability of cheaper and less fragile transparencies and 35mm slides by the 1960s, they were moved to storage and eventually transferred to the BMA's Archives and Manuscripts Collections in 2003.
Significant images in the collection include: views of the Museum's first home in the rarely photographed Garrett Mansion which was torn down in 1930; views of the 1929 building designed by John Russell Pope around the time of its construction; views of interior areas of the museum such as the Sadie A. May Young People's Art Center, Julius Levy Memorial Room, and the Renaissance Room that have since been moved or changed extensively.