Posted on May 18th, 2015 by Rachel
I became involved in the development for The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen as I have a background in Egyptology, it isn’t something I ever expected to use when I started working at the JMM but recently it has been put to good use. In addition to working on the exhibit I have been able to plan a few programs that also draw on this knowledge.
Last month we held an Ancient Egypt family day here at the Museum. We wanted to make sure it wasn’t just the usual discussion of mummification but something that would teach some of the skills needed by an early Egyptologist like Mendes. We planned a series of interconnected activities that showed some of the process an archaeologist follows.
Understanding how to excavate was our first aim, everyone received their own archaeological dig to excavate. We started by carefully dividing the site into sections, these would be essential for recording our finds accurately . As we dug we also spoke about the importance of stratigraphy and how it helps to date a site and the objects we find.
Due to some careful planning everyone found the remains of two ceramic vessels which were carefully recorded and collected for the next stage.
This was an important part of the day that really taught some practical skills. We examined the pieces we found, discussing rim sherds especially. We looked at how they can be used to create a better impression of how a vessel may have originally looked, especially the size of the vessel. We also discussed why ceramics are such a common find on archaeological sites and what they can reveal.
Once we gathered as much information as possible regarding our sherds we stared the process of reconstruction, this took a lot of patience and a little creative thinking, but eventually we were able to reconstruct our precious artefacts!
The one thing that no Ancient Egypt day would be complete without is of course hieroglyphs. All of the materials that were excavated came ready inscribed with their ‘original’ contents, including bread, beer, cobras and fish. Once the translation was done we took the opportunity to do some writing in hieroglyphs ourselves.
Finally we explored some of the types of object an archaeologist might discover. Most of the material that survives from Ancient Egypt, including all of the antiquities on display in The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, were originally intended for a funerary context. So we decided to make a few grave goods of our own including this fantastic death mask and some shabtis.
If you missed out on Egypt Day don’t worry! We have another great family day planned for June 14th, the closing day of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen and Flag Day.
A blog post by Programs Manager Trillion Attwood. To read more posts from Trillion click HERE.
Posted on May 15th, 2015 by Rachel
JMM has always prided itself on its small, dedicated team of outstanding professionals. It’s amazing what a dozen people can do, when you have great talent supported by strong volunteers and lay leadership.
This month has brought two new members to the team to existing/future vacancies. I thought that we’d use this issue of JMM Insights to introduce Tracie Guy-Decker, our new Associate Director for Projects, Planning and Finance, and Graham Humphrey who will replace Abby Krolik as Visitor Services Manager. I am really excited to have Tracie and Graham on board and I know you will join me in welcoming them into our family. I have asked them both to tell a bit of their own stories.
My great great grandmother, Dora Bachrach Fink, was a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation when it was in the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Now that I am Associate Director at JMM, every day, I sit at a computer that is but yards from the place my ancestors worshipped more than a century ago. Working for JMM is also a homecoming for me professionally—a return to working with and for the Jewish community. (I served as the Marketing Director for the Jewish Federation and the JCC in Virginia Beach until my husband, a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy, received orders that moved us to Maryland.)
Tracie and her husband Dave.
This is an exciting time for JMM, and I’m honored and humbled to be able to be a part of it. My colleagues are smart, funny, capable professionals, and under Marvin’s leadership the Museum is on a trajectory to become a center for Jewish and secular history and culture in Baltimore—not tomorrow, but soon. I’m excited to lend my skills, expertise, and experience to that trajectory (and to learn new skills along the way!). I’m also excited to be able to share this amazing resource with my daughter, Ruth (3 years old). The Museum family will watch Ruth and the Museum grow together over the next several years.
Ruth enjoying the rocket seats at Patterson Park
I’m also heartened by the welcome I’ve received from all of the friends of the Museum thus far—professionals, lay leaders, volunteers, members, and visitors have all been amazingly friendly and helpful as I learn my way around (literally and figuratively). I’d love the opportunity to reciprocate that welcome: if you’re in the Museum, please stop by. You can tell me your story of the Museum or the Lloyd Street Synagogue, we could play “Jewish Geography,” or just say ‘hi,’ I’m here Monday through Thursday, and will never turn down a cup of coffee.
Hello! My name is Graham Humphrey and I was recently hired to be the new Visitor Services Coordinator to replace Abby Krolik after she leaves the Museum at the end of the month to continue her studies. I received my MA in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and my BA from Brandeis University in Art History. For the past seven years, I have been working at museums, aboard sailboats and at National Park sites in visitor services, education, development and collections management. I have gotten to lead experiential education programs while dressed up in period costume at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, teach basic seamanship to students aboard the schooner the Lady Maryland and work with goats at the Carl Sandburg Home in North Carolina. In my free time, I enjoy visiting other museums and historic sites, exploring the great outdoors, attending cultural events and staying involved within the Jewish community.
I am excited about continuing to make the Jewish Museum a welcoming environment and to ensure that visitors have a rewarding experience. I also hope to encourage public discourse about contemporary issues, explore how we can engage new audiences as well as serve as agents for social change in our community.
Marvin’s note: We don’t plan I having Graham work with goats… but a “Jewish pirates sail”, well who knows what is possible.
Posted on May 13th, 2015 by Rachel
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Along with several thousand other museum curators, educators, administrators, registrars, developers, and – of course – collections managers, I enjoyed four days of camaraderie, discussion, ideas, and food both mediocre (sorry, official conference hotel’s catering) and excellent (thank you, Mary Mac’s Tea Room). Atlanta inaugurated a city-wide Museum Week to coincide with the conference, and many local venues and organizations sent their ‘mascots’ to the Georgia World Congress Center to welcome the attendees.
I’m not personally a fan of costumed mascots, but I couldn’t resist posing with Zhu Zhu from Zoo Atlanta.
There are many museum conferences to attend each year, from local to national to international. Among those options, AAM positions itself as one of the ‘big ones,’ and indeed many of the session topics relate to the concerns of extremely large, influential, and well-known institutions. However, in recent years they’ve made a push to serve museums on the other end of the scale. That gives those of us with smaller staffs and budgets a chance to meet with our cohorts from across the country, discuss topics relevant to our needs, gather info about current trends, and learn useful tips on applying those trends that we can steal borrow from our fellows. There is a certain chip-on-our-shoulders attitude common to small-to-mid-size museum employees at a gathering like this one; in one session, geared toward historical societies and similarly not-exactly-the-Met museums, a presenter unwisely said: “Well, we only have 15 full-time staff.” The audience did not feel her pain. (It was a very useful session, though.)
Conferences are a great chance to catch up with old friends, network with new ones, buy topical books at a discount, and gather as much information, contacts, and swag from the Expo Hall as you can….
The accidental theme of the only photos I took at the conference: Bears. This fine fellow was in the Expo Hall.
…Oh, and attend sessions, right! The actual point of the conference! I went to lots of sessions about artifact and archival collections, of course, with themes ranging from the philosophical to the practical. In keeping with the conference’s theme, “The Social Value of Museums: Inspiring Change,” the keynote speaker, Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole, roused the crowd with her call to action: Broadening the diversity of museums’ content, audiences, boards, and staff. And, on the morning of Tuesday, April 28th – after a Monday evening spent watching the news as events unfolded back in Baltimore – a packed meeting room discussed the lessons learned by the Missouri History Center in the wake of Ferguson, and the ways in which museums in Baltimore and other cities can respond to and reflect on their communities’ needs.
As always, I returned from the conference with a bag full of notes, brochures, books, free pens, and far too many new ideas to implement all at once. The challenge is to maintain that enthusiastic “we can do it!” impetus in the face of the day-to-day realities of museum work. But I’m so glad to be working in a museum like the JMM, an organization that welcomes those ideas, encourages that enthusiasm, and is ready to respond positively and proactively to the Maryland community.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.