Creativity in Museums: A Rewarding Workshop

Posted on March 23rd, 2015 by

On March 10, 2015, two museum educators and a visitor services coordinator ventured to Edgewater, Maryland for a workshop called “Creativity in Museums.”  This rewarding and inspiring workshop was hosted at the Historic Londontown and Gardens. Linda Norris presented this workshop based on her new book, Creativity in Museum Practice.  We discussed the importance of looking outside your work for inspiration either in a physical setting, the media, or professionals from different museums.  To get the creative juices flowing we did a brainstorming activity.  We started with a problem and wrote down a solution on a piece of paper.  Then the paper was passed to the person next to you.  This activity allowed for all voices to be heard, but also challenging because it made you think outside the box.

 Tenement House

Tenement House

Failure is inevitable in life and often occurs in the workplace.  This can be damaging to our psyche and our creative process, but is necessary.  In a small group we discussed an instance in our careers where we had failed and had to choose the best story.  Linda called this activity “Failure Olympics.”  The importance of failure is how we overcome and learn from it.  We cannot assume what our audience will like or feel about a program or an exhibition, but gathering and testing out ideas will hopefully allow us to create something interesting and meaningful.

Participants of the Failure Olympics.

Participants of the Failure Olympics.

Historic London Town and Gardens was the next subject of an activity called SCAMPER.  Each letter represented a word such as Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Other Uses, Eliminate and Rearrange or Reverse.  We explored the campus answering various questions for each word at different locations.  It was not the best activity for March as the ground was wet and soggy from the snow and rain, but it was not an overall failure.  SCAMPER helped us to re-imagine and re-purpose the space being used while learning about this history of this organization.  “Creativity in Museums” permitted us to bring fresh and creative ideas back to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  We hope to apply these practices to future exhibitions and programs.

 William Brown House

William Brown House

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JMM Insights: The Silver Screen

Posted on March 20th, 2015 by

Oscar season may be over but we’ve still got movies on our mind here at the JMM. Beginning this spring with our partnership with the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival to a new summer exhibition, the silver screen is making a big appearance here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

 

Herbert M. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration

First off, we are pleased to announce the Ninth Annual Herbert M. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration which will be presented in special partnership with the William and Irene Weinberg Family Baltimore Jewish Film Festival (which begins this Sunday, March 22nd – see below for more details).  This year’s Risch program includes the Maryland Premiere of the film Stateless and a talk with the film’s director Michael Drob.

Stateless

Stateless

In the late 1980’s, on the brink of the collapse of the Soviet Union, tens of thousands of Soviet Jews were finally allowed to leave the USSR. What these people did not expect was that their final destination, America, no longer welcomed them with open arms. In 1988, American policy suddenly changed and thousands of Soviet Jews were stranded in Italy.

Stateless relies on firsthand accounts from these émigrés, exploring the difficulty of deciding to leave, the discrimination faced, and the consequences of both.

The film and talk will be held on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 3:00pm. Tickets can be purchased HERE.

Support for the Risch Memorial Program is provided by Frank and Helen Risch through the Risch Memorial Endowment Fund at THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

You can read a little about last year’s Risch program here.
Baltimore Jewish Film Festival
This weekend marks the opening of the William and Irene Weinberg Family’s 27th annual Baltimore Jewish Film Festival! This year’s festival includes eleven films from six different countries. As described in the Jewish Times: Themes this year, both meaty and provocative, tackle Israeli/Palestinian relations and delve into modern Israeli culture … and explore the Holocaust and its aftermath. Several evenings feature after-film question-and-answer sessions with guest speakers and filmmakers [read more from this article.]

With such a diverse slate of films, there is sure to be something for everyone.  The festival begins March 22 and runs through April 28th. You can view trailers for each film and get the whole schedule for the festival over at their website HERE. All films will be screened at the Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills, MD 21117. Contact Danielle Feinstein at dfeinstein@jcc.org / 410.500.5909

Still from Run Boy Run, screening April 20th at 7:30pm.

Still from Run Boy Run, screening April 20th at 7:30pm.

Cinema Judaica

catalog cover 400dpi no author

Cinema Judaica catalog

We are thrilled to announce our next exhibit: Cinema Judaica, opening on July 1, 2015. Cinema Judaica was created by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. This is an unprecedented exhibit of iconic Hollywood film posters and memorabilia from 1939 to 1971 and contains more than 100 original motion picture posters, movie stills and trade announcements. The exhibit highlights the connections between American Jews and the motion picture industry as well as how films from this time period shaped public opinion issues of importance to the Jewish community such as World War II and the establishment of the State of Israel.

Our program staff has been working hard to organize a dynamic and engaging series of related programming. As part of the opening festivities we welcome exhibit curator Ken Sutak, who will be speaking on the evening of July 2nd. Later in July we will host historian Amy Davis, who will speak on the historic movie houses of Baltimore, many of which were owned by Jewish families. In August we will present “Cinema Sundays on the Backlot,” an outdoor film series here at the Museum, located in our “backlot” i.e. our fabulous parking lot. These film showings will be free to the public.

Help Us “Make It Maryland!”
In addition to the movie posters and advertisements that make up the Cinema Judaica exhibit borrowed from Hebrew Union College, the JMM will add material that explores how Maryland Jews experienced Hollywood movies from this time period. The experience of going to the movies is as much a part of this exhibit as the movies themselves, and we’d love to include your memories and stories.

small 4 Gentlemans Agreement

Movie poster

Do you remember watching “Gentleman’s Agreement” or “Ben-Hur” when they first came out?  Visiting your favorite neighborhood movie theater every week? Discussing “Son of Liberty,” “The Search,” or “Exodus” with your family, friends, or youth group?  If you are interested in sharing your stories and related memorabilia, please contact Joanna Church, Collections Manager, at jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org or 410-732-6400 x226.

Cinema Judaica will be on display at the Jewish Museum of Maryland from July 1 to September 6, 2015

 

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And the Mendes Questions Continue…

Posted on March 18th, 2015 by

If you’d thought we were finished with answering the questions that pile up inside the Question Box at the end of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit, you would be wrong.  In fact, we have a particularly juicy set of questions and answers for you this time. In this edition of Questions About Mendes Cohen, our topics range from the sartorial to the existential, and with plenty of other deep subjects in between!

47.22.2 Mendes I. Cohen Artist Unkown

47.22.2 Mendes I. Cohen
Artist Unkown

1) Did he know how to daven?

We believe that the Cohen family were observant Jews and, therefore, would have known how to daven. Because there were no established Jewish synagogues at the time of their move to Baltimore, they most likely worshiped in private homes. The family was involved, however, in the establishment of Baltimore’s first Sephardi congregation, Beth Israel, in 1856.

2) What did he wear on his first journey?

Unfortunately, we don’t know what he wore on his first journey.  In one of his letters home, he did provide a detailed list of what he brought with him to prevent sea sickness (gingerbread, mint drops, mint lozenges, lemons, limes, pickles, and a medicine package of powders!). The one article of clothing that we do know about is the ornate Middle Eastern style jacket that he’s seen wearing in his portrait. He purchased the jacket during his travels, so he most likely wore it during his travels in the Middle East. We have this particular jacket in our collections, and it’s on display in the room with with the Egyptian antiquities he brought back.

Mendes' jacket

Mendes’ jacket

3) Was Mendes educated? If so, how did Mendes Cohen becomes educated? Who taught him, etc.?

We can tell from Mendes’ writing style that he was highly educated, but we don’t know how he was educated. Since public schools did not yet exist, children of wealthy families (like the Cohens) would have been taught either in religious schools or at home. Mendes’ younger brother, Joshua, attended a religious school run by an Episcopalian minister.

Mendes' travel writing desk.

Mendes’ travel writing desk.

4) What happened after he died?

Since he had no children, Mendes left most of his belongings and estate to his nieces and nephews. One nephew, also named Mendes, received his collection of Egyptian antiquities which he donated to Johns Hopkins University and is now a part of the university’s Archeological Museum. The younger Mendes Cohen also served as president of the Maryland Historical Society where he donated his uncle’s papers, including the many letters he wrote home during his travels. This is how we know so much about Mendes Cohen!

Selections from Mendes' archaeological collection.

Selections from Mendes’ archaeological collection.

5) Why was Mendes a “Family Man”?

Mendes spent the majority of his life living with or in close proximity to family members. According to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, he lived with his brothers Jacob and Joshua. Even when he lived on his own in 1870s, he lived nearby his other siblings in Mount Vernon. And while he was away from his family traveling, he wrote many letters home keeping them updated about his adventures.

A letter home from Mendes.

A letter home from Mendes.

Are there still questions percolating in your mind? Let us know!

 

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