In doing image research for the articles to be featured in the Chosen Food exhibit, I found myself returning to one of the JMM’s largest photo collections often, whether the subject was food, festivals, even gardening. Name an aspect of life in Baltimore in the 70s and 80s, and this collection is likely to have it.
Which collection is it? In 2006, the JMM received thousands of photos that had been taken, mostly by Baltimore’s professional photographers of the time, as promotional images and to record the activities of the local JCC. Pull any random folder from the shelves, and you’re equally likely to see a nursery school seder, or photos of the adult dance class.
These photos were an invaluable help in finding images to represent Passover and Hanukah. Many traditional Jewish foods are centered around holiday traditions, so finding a professional shot of children baking their own matzoh, or learning how to make latkes really helps to create a visually appealing emphasis on these traditions that complements the text of the article.
To illustrate an article about the New Jewish Food Movement, which is concerned with not only keeping kosher, but also treating the employees and animals who are a part of the food process well, I was able to find an image of the JCC gardening club hard at work. Small gardens to serve a community, rather than far away larger farms, is one of the concepts the NJFM focuses on as a part of eco-friendliness and connecting people to the earth their food comes from.
The JCC collection is full of useful photos for future JMM publications, but at over 5000 items, it is a daunting task to record and digitize all of them. Over 2000 have been recorded to the database, and while less have been scanned, many gems are already safely archived on the JMM hard drives. It’s a long process, but one that will no doubt be worth it in the long run.