One Month Update: What I’ve Learned in My First Four Weeks as a JMM Intern

Posted on June 28, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Hannah Balik. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

As my fourth week at the Jewish Museum of Maryland comes to a close, I think that it is time for some reflection. I have done so much and learned so much during this internship so far. One of my favorite parts of interning at the Jewish Museum this summer has been learning about the amazing and rich Jewish history that Baltimore has. I am originally from New York, a place with its own diverse and beautiful Jewish life and history. Going to school at Goucher College in Towson for four years gave me a connection to the Baltimore area, but I knew little about the Jewish community here and its rich history. Since starting at the JMM, I have been learning all about the Baltimore Jewish community’s over one-hundred-and-fifty-year long history in the Jonestown neighborhood. Getting to experience the Jonestown neighborhood and learn about all the history that took place under my feet has helped me feel more connected to Baltimore.

One of the rare books we were able to view at the Walters.

This learning has been helped by the museum trips we have been taking as an intern group. So far, we have gone to the Walters Museum, where we had the opportunity to see some rare books. We also went to the Star Spangled Banner Flag House, which was so interesting, as I hadn’t previously known the connection between Baltimore, the American flag, and our National Anthem. We also had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting at the Baltimore National Heritage Area office, which perhaps was the best look at what it means to be a museum professional – lots of meetings with other museum professionals.

Being an education and programming intern, I have been working on a lot of projects. One of the projects I have been working on is revamping the educational interactive pieces that are in the Lloyd Street Synagogue lower floor exhibit. This has been a really fun project, and I have the opportunity to create an educational game that will hopefully be used in school group tours in the future. I’ve also been creating, along with the other Education intern, Ariella, educator’s guides for Jews in Space, an exhibit that is coming to the JMM in this spring. These educator guides aim to help teachers in Jewish schools as well as public and non-Jewish private schools to prepare their students for the exhibit and help them best connect the information learned at the museum to their normal lessons. I learned a lot researching that exhibit, including the fact that the Vulcan salute from Star Trek has its origins in an ancient Jewish ritual. I also learned about Judith Resnik, the first Jewish American and Jewish woman in space, who sadly perished in the Challenger disaster. I loved learning about her and her connection to Maryland- she earned her PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland. Learning small details like that is what makes research really fun and interesting for me.

I have also been working on programming for the Scrap Yard exhibit, an original JMM exhibit which opens this fall. I have learned so much about garbage, which is actually much more interesting than it sounds! I won’t bore you with the trashy details, but the scrap industry was huge in Baltimore for a long time, and many people earned a lot of money through the business. One research nugget I found in my Scrap Yard research is the philanthropy work of Bernard Schapiro. Bernard immigrated to Baltimore when he was seven, and left school when he was 14 to work in his family’s rag scrap business. In 1918, when Bernard was 19, he and his brother founded Solomon Schapiro and Sons, a rag recycling business they operated alongside their father and later, their other brother. Learning about the scrap business was interesting enough, but what truly interested me when researching Bernard was his dedication to philanthropy.

Moving bales of rags, Shapiro Company, Baltimore, MD 1942.

In 1979, he founded People Encouraging People, or PEP, a program which works in conjunction with Sinai Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry to help people transition out of psychiatric institutions. They offer clinical services, housing, workforce development, services for those who are homeless, and recover services for those in need. Bernard Schapiro also founded Schapiro Training and Employment Program Inc, or STEP in 1986, which aims to give new beginnings to a highly stigmatized group of people: those with mental illness and psychiatric disabilities. Both of these institutions are still around in Baltimore and are helping people every day. It’s easy to forget that the people we study were real people, and not just one thing that they did. Bernard earned his way through scrap, as many other immigrants in Baltimore and around the country did, but he took his money and put it back in the community, which is beautiful.

I’ve already learned so much thus far in this internship.

Research nuggets are just the beginning. I have the knowledge and ability to lead museum visitors through the entire museum: I can sell them an admission ticket, give them a tour of our current exhibits, including the Lloyd Street Synagogue, and then I can sell them a “Oy Vey” magnet at the gift shop. I’ve also learned about museum accessibility, museum evaluations, different databases common in small museums, and other vital things for a career in museums. Not only am I learning all of this valuable information, but I get to go on cool field trips also! This first month has been a great experience, and I have learned a lot of invaluable information about what it means to be a museum professional. I am very excited to see where the next six weeks of this internship takes me.


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