Our Story & History


Sandy Spring Museum connects diverse communities and advances social equity through shared and inspiring experiences of our region’s cultural heritage.
Adopted by Board of Directors, January 2023

Vision & Strategic Plan

Sandy Spring Museum envisions an equitable Montgomery County that leverages the rich and diverse cultural heritages of its residents as a vehicle toward increased empathy, cross-cultural understanding, and coalition building. Click here to read  Sandy Spring Museum’s  Strategic Plan 2023-2028.

Building a Better Community

Sandy Spring Museum stands firmly with those fighting against the racism, structural disadvantages, and systemic injustice that have oppressed Black people in the United States for hundreds of years. The United States was built on discriminatory practices that were codified in our legal system, beginning with the dehumanization of Native people, followed by enslaving Black people in bondage as property, for the financial benefit of those of white European ancestry. Sandy Spring Museum stands on land that was once a plantation where Black people were enslaved. We recognize that the Museum is the beneficiary of a historically unjust system. We are committed to working toward dismantling systems that perpetuate racism and discrimination in order to build a just, equal society.

Click here to learn more about the history of our land.

Through community-generated programming, Sandy Spring Museum provides a forum for communities to present to an audience of their choosing. Community partners share authority with SSM to create programming. Partners frequently represent underserved communities and their programs reach an audience of underserved constituents.

We support the Montgomery County Council’s commitment to advancing equity. We view diversity as a valuable community asset. By embracing diversity, we can help build a stronger organization by:

  • building a board that is representatives of the demographic diversity of the area;
  • seeking partnerships with individuals and groups that meet the needs of historically underserved community members.

We commit to furthering equity by:

  • providing opportunities for people to genuinely connect, learn together, and develop relationships;
  • creating an ad-hoc board committee to design methodology that can be used to measure and demonstrate that museum programming serves equity and inclusion principles.

About Us

At Sandy Spring Museum, it’s all about the community. Everything we do, every milestone we celebrate, every program and exhibit is here for the community and because of the community. The museum is a place where people can develop meaningful connections by exploring community history through the visual, literary, and performing arts. In recent years we have evolved from a traditional history museum into a dynamic, participatory cultural arts community center.
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Sandy Spring Museum was founded in 1981 when a group of residents led by Delmas Wood, an insurance salesman and auctioneer, noted that the community’s history was being sold off with every passing of a long-time resident. The first incarnation of the museum was in the basement of Sandy Spring Bank, out of which we operated for many years, exhibiting artifacts in handmade cases and hosting lectures on local history. On June 12, 1982 this group of volunteers held the first Strawberry Festival at the old Montgomery Hospital grounds in Olney; in the subsequent years since then the Strawberry Festival has become so well-known that it has become part of the community’s history itself!

In 1986 the museum moved to a brick, four-story colonial house called Tall Timbers, which had been the home of Gladys Brooke Tumbleson. In 1994 local resident Helen Bentley, who could trace her ancestry to the original residents of Sandy Spring nearly 300 years prior, donated over seven acres of land on Bentley Road to the museum, where we built our permanent home in 1997. Since its dedication in September 1997, the facility has received the Excellence in Design Award from the Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, a Merit Award from the Maryland chapter of the American Institute of Architects and “Best New Building in a Historical Area” from the Historic Preservation Office of Montgomery County.

In 2007 the museum complex was completed with the addition of research library and a state-of-the-art collections storage facility.

Having a museum in town creates a sense of place and provides public space for people to engage and participate in many different meaningful social and cultural activities. The term “living history museum” traditionally means a museum that uses costumed reenactors to interpret history. To us, living history means having artists working in their studios; it means having cultural artists create experiences for the entire community to enjoy; it means bringing people together to make new friends and have unexpected encounters; it means having a wedding, a life-cycle event, or other gathering here. In a world dominated by technology and virtual communities, we bring people together for face-to-face connections. The museum is the heart of the Sandy Spring community. We strive to be the community gathering place in order to improve the quality of life in the Sandy Spring for everyone.

The History of Sandy Spring, MD

Sandy Spring is the center of a unique Maryland community, a network of rural villages.  Among the first permanent settlers, c. 1720, were members of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, who were in search of land to grow tobacco and corn. Continue Reading

The name of the town comes from the fresh-water spring near which the Quakers built their third Meeting House in 1814, which still stands today. Stemming from that original Meeting House, the boundaries of the Sandy Spring neighborhood extend out in a six-mile radius, as local legend tells this was the farthest distance that members of the Meeting could travel to and from home on horseback and still make it home before dark. As such, the greater Sandy Spring neighborhood includes the current village of Sandy Spring itself, as well as the current communities of Ashton, Brighton, Brookeville, Cloverly, Brinklow/Cincinnati, Ednor/Norwood, Laytonsville/Mt. Zion, Norbeck/Oakdale, Olney/Davis, Triadelphia, Spencerville/Brown’s Corner, and Unity/Sunshine, each of which has its own unique and extensive history.

Sandy Spring Museum Timeline

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  • September 3, 1980 – First meeting of the Museum Founding Committee of the Sandy Spring Museum, Inc. was called by Delmas P. Wood, Jr. Wood was elected President of Sandy Spring Museum. The meeting was held in the lower level of the Sandy Spring Bank in Sandy Spring, MD
  • October 1, 1980 – The Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the Sandy Spring Museum are adopted.
  • 1981 – The first Collections Acquisitions Policy Statement is adopted.
  • 1982 – The first Strawberry Festival is held on the old Montgomery Hospital grounds in Olney, MD.
  • 1986 – Sandy Spring Museum officially moves into Tall Timbers with a grand opening celebration.
  • 1991The Garden Club is officially sanctioned by the Museum. The club is given $300 in start-up funds.
  • 1993 – Discussions begin to either renovate Tall Timbers or move the museum to a new location.
  • 1994 – Helen Bentley donates seven acres of land at the intersection of Bentley Road and Route 108, to be used in some appropriate way to honor the life of Jack Bentley.
  • 1997 – Sandy Spring Museum officially opens at its new, permanent location at 17901 Bentley Road in Sandy Spring, MD. The facility receives three awards for its architecture, including the Excellence in Design Award from the Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
  • 2006 – Construction of the research library and collections storage room begins and concludes in 2007
  • 2013 – The Trustees adopt a new mission, which expands our ability to serve the community.  The museum begins renting studios to artists.
  • 2014 – The museum receives a $130,000 three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund its community-driven programs and collaborations with cultural artists.
  • 2015 – Annual attendance reaches over 21,000 visitors
  • 2017 – 19th century barn is converted into three more artist studios.  The campus now has seven individual studios and a pottery co-op.
  • 2019 – Anonymous gift funds the digitization of the Museum’s archives
  • 2023 – $120,000 in grants funds Equity in Metadata, a project designed to make archival information on Black history as easy to navigate as white history.