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Normals Books & Records

How We Got Our Start

Normals was started on a tiny budget in 1990 as a collective of 9 people who wanted to work for themselves and to form a certain cultural presence in Baltimore. The stock has always been good and broad, drawing on the lure of Waverly as a "book neighborhood" (and now with Red Emma's and Urban Reads!) and proximity to Johns Hopkins University. The collective was involved in a lot of publishing, performance, organizing, alternative thinking, politics and "strange" sensibilities. This kept things lively, sometimes resulting in concerts or openings in the store. The place has always meant more than just selling stuff and now for 22 years and counting it's housed the legendary Red Room/High Zero experimental collective/shows. Plus, non-Red Room events that take place in the Red Room like poetry readings, film showings, folkish, rockish and even flamenco performances.

Normals got its name from a few different sources, so it will have to be shrouded in myth and mystery. One theory says that the founding collective members were (almost) all former employees of the Baltimore Psychiatric Research Center, as "Normal (control) test subjects in Schizophrenia Research. These are the people who are paid to provide "baseline" results to the same tests taken by schizophrenics of the same age and sex, It amused us - that we, as individuals, would be paid to constitute a standard of "normality".