JMM Insights: Small Change

Posted on June 21, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Executive Director Marvin Pinkert, with a behind-the-scenes look at an upcoming display. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


Most of our JMM Insights newsletters are dedicated to the major exhibits and program series that shape our calendar. But some of the most interesting projects we work on are small showcase exhibits that allow us to respond to targets of opportunity without the long lead times associated with feature shows. Our next showcase display, Redeemable: Baltimore’s $2 Bill and the Making of American Currency, opens July 7th and runs through August 11th.

The inspiration for this project was a phone call just a few months ago from a friend of the JMM in New York, Morris Offit.  He let me know that he had recently donated a $2 bill printed by the Continental Congress bearing the signature of Benjamin Levy to the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia (with the goal of strengthening the story of Jewish contributions to our war for Independence.  Benjamin Levy who came to Baltimore in 1773, is usually credited as being the first Jewish resident to permanently settle in this city.

This news reached us about the same time we were getting set to open Fashion Statement and triggered the thought that, of all the accessories we “wear,” money is perhaps the one whose design we most take for granted. We searched our collection for other artifacts that spoke to the connection between the appearance of currency and its perceived value , and found three other items that fit this category: a pair of bank notes designed by Baltimore artist Solomon Carvalho; a set of coins stamped by Civil War sutler, Lazarus Goldheim; and bank notes from the early 20th century signed by bank director Louis Kann.

We started asking ourselves “what gives money its value?” – a question raised by all four artifacts – “were they redeemable?” We realized that if we could borrow the $2 bill we could tell an engaging story about the emergence of American money and four members of the Baltimore Jewish community who participated in that history.

The Museum of the American Revolution accepted our loan request, and we quickly completed some preliminary research. We decided to time our opening of the showcase exhibit with the Sunday of July 4th weekend.

Another “small change” on the horizon is the virtual tour of the Anne Frank House to complement our Stitching History from the Holocaust exhibit on the first two Sundays in August. This will be our first experiment in using the new Oculus lenses that were donated to us this month.

Our next showcase exhibit will be a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Eddie’s of Roland Park, set to open on September 15.

So this summer when you come back for a second look at Fashion Statement or to attend one of the wonderful programs in our Recovery and Renewal: The Immigration Experience series, don’t forget to be on the lookout for small change.*


*and, speaking of change, a reminder: The Associated’s annual campaign “Change Begins Here” closes at the end of the month. JMM encourages you to support the organization that is our number one source of funds.


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