Invaluable Archives

Posted on November 20, 2013 by

Since my last update, I have learned so much more about Baltimore Jewish history by processing a wide variety of collections. Entering the library closed stacks, I am never quite sure what lies in store for me within the mysterious archival boxes. In the case of the library closed stacks, no two collections are alike!

Over the past month, I accessioned photographs, cookbooks, invoices, holiday cards, invitations, financial documents, and all manner of fascinating manuscript materials for the archives. I strongly encourage anyone interested in Baltimore history to conduct research in our archives. I recently processed original documents pertaining to the career of Lun (Licien) Harris, a fashion illustrator who was an active preservationist and founding member of Baltimore Heritage. Lun Harris was appointed to the Baltimore City Planning Commission and voted against interstate highways through Baltimore. This month, I accessioned several of Harris’ photographs as well as original diplomas and awards for the JMM archives.

Here is a photograph of Lun Harris in a three-way mirror. The scan is available in the JMM’s digital records, but we also have the original in our extensive photograph collection.



Beyond  Lun Harris’ photographs, we also have various documents pertaining to this remarkable woman’s lifetime achievements courtesy of Linda Lapides. For example, here we have Harris’ gorgeous certificate commemorating her service with the Baltimore City Planning Commission:



Although this scan is available for research most of the JMM’s twenty thousand catalog records are not digitized. Anyone interested in Baltimore history would benefit from the materials available in our archival collections. As much as I enjoy digitizing new accession materials,  I am amazed by the sheer volume of physical manuscripts, books, paintings, maps, blueprints, and other original documents in the archives. As a history student at UMBC, I am pleased that such a wealth of local history is readily available.

Another compelling collection from this past month, donated by Morton Esterson, includes more recent records. JMM archives include not only faded original manuscripts but also recent records of Jewish life in Baltimore.  These resources, preserved in the permanent collection, will be readily available for future generations. My interest in these recent documents in particular sprang from my personal contact with the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Holocaust Speakers Bureau as a UMBC Jewish student leader. While I was directly in touch with the Holocaust Speakers Bureau, I added original documents about their resources to the JMM archives. This coincidence speaks to the continuing relevance of the archives for Jewish life in Baltimore. The archives include resources with enduring meaning beyond the realm of academia. Other “modern” documents I added in the past few weeks include Rosh Hashana greeting cards – yet another surprising find in the library closed stacks! Although some of the collections I processed are more mundane than others, just by sheer exposure to this variety of documents I have learned so much about Jewish life in Baltimore. Once again, I look forward to the next collection!

After my last blog post, my classmates at UMBC pleasantly surprised me by mentioning that they follow the Jewish Museum of Maryland on social media. Please continue following the JMM on Twitter and Facebook!

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Intern JenA blog post by Collections Intern Jen Wachtel. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.

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