Learning Their Names

Posted on July 19th, 2016 by

Like many historical societies and museums, we have a large number of photos in which some or all of the individuals are unidentified.  We use a variety of techniques to address this problem, from archival research to crowd-sourcing; we also do our best, when accepting new donations, to ensure that we get the names and stories from the donors straight away.

Perhaps naturally, our focus in these endeavors has been on the Jewish community – but that doesn’t mean that only Jewish people are represented in our collections.  Few communities live in a vacuum; we interact with other groups nearly every day, as friends, coworkers, and family, in shops and restaurants and on the street.

Herman Becker (second from left) with three unidentified employees of the Becker Sign Company, Baltimore, circa 1928.  Gift of the estate of Herschel Elliot Becker. JMM 1989.102.10

Herman Becker (second from left) with three unidentified employees of the Becker Sign Company, Baltimore, circa 1928. Gift of the estate of Herschel Elliot Becker. JMM 1989.102.10

Nurses Mary Mead (left) and Esther Farber Dubin (right) received Sinai Hospital’s Harry Greenstein Nurse of the Year award in 1971.  Gift of the Nurses Alumnae Association of Sinai Hospital. JMM 2010.20.193

Nurses Mary Mead (left) and Esther Farber Dubin (right) received Sinai Hospital’s Harry Greenstein Nurse of the Year award in 1971. Gift of the Nurses Alumnae Association of Sinai Hospital. JMM 2010.20.193

Unidentified photos are the bane of a collections manager’s existence. (One of them, anyway.)  And yet it’s a perfectly understandable problem; many of us can’t remember the names of people in our own snapshots, let alone those of our parents and grandparents. (As a side note, here’s your reminder to clearly identify all your photos with full names, locations, and dates.) If the people donating the images don’t know who’s in them, what chance do we, the unaffiliated museum staff, have? Happily, there are often clues we can use to recover some names.  And once we know the names, we should use them.

The back of this photo is identified only with the date, “June 1907.”  Comparison with the rest of the family’s collection tells us that the infant is Klare Lobe, but the African American woman holding her is unidentified.  A little digging in the records shows that in 1910, when the census was taken, the Lobes were boarding with the Rayne family on Linden Avenue, Baltimore. In that year the Raynes’ household included three live-in servants, all African American: cook Laura Pitts, 47; “waiter” Eben Pitts, 12; and housemaid Lena Drummond, a 27 year old widow. It’s possible that Lena is the young woman holding Klare in this 1907 photo.  Gift of Marjorie Scott. JMM 2002.045.016

The back of this photo is identified only with the date, “June 1907.” Comparison with the rest of the family’s collection tells us that the infant is Klare Lobe, but the African American woman holding her is unidentified. A little digging in the records shows that in 1910, when the census was taken, the Lobes were boarding with the Rayne family on Linden Avenue, Baltimore. In that year the Raynes’ household included three live-in servants, all African American: cook Laura Pitts, 47; “waiter” Eben Pitts, 12; and housemaid Lena Drummond, a 27 year old widow. It’s possible that Lena is the young woman holding Klare in this 1907 photo. Gift of Marjorie Scott. JMM 2002.045.016

Ruth Weinberg Leven compiled a photo album showing her family’s everyday life in the early 20th century.  She carefully labeled each image with both the date and the first names of the participants.  In this 1907 photo, on the porch of their Baltimore home are Weinberg siblings Martin, Helen, and Leonard, with Lizzie, a young African American girl in what is probably a maid’s or nanny’s uniform, holding Ruth Weinberg in her arms. Unfortunately, Lizzie was not “living in” in 1910, and so does not appear in the census (the servants listed in the household are white); more work must be done to identify her last name. Gift of Jan Weinberg. JMM 1996.127.23.51a

Ruth Weinberg Leven compiled a photo album showing her family’s everyday life in the early 20th century. She carefully labeled each image with both the date and the first names of the participants. In this 1907 photo, on the porch of their Baltimore home are Weinberg siblings Martin, Helen, and Leonard, with Lizzie, a young African American girl in what is probably a maid’s or nanny’s uniform, holding Ruth Weinberg in her arms. Unfortunately, Lizzie was not “living in” in 1910, and so does not appear in the census (the servants listed in the household are white); more work must be done to identify her last name. Gift of Jan Weinberg. JMM 1996.127.23.51a

Employees of Wolf Salganik & Sons, a wholesale butcher shop, pose on a rooftop, circa 1935. As in the photo above, we’re fortunate in that someone has noted a few names on the photo itself, including Mabel, Mary, Sophie, and – the sole gentleman in the photo, and also the only African American – Bob. It would certainly be convenient if the original note-taker had also jotted down these folks’ last names and job titles, but historians know that a little clue is better than none. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Salganik. JMM 2004.27.7

Employees of Wolf Salganik & Sons, a wholesale butcher shop, pose on a rooftop, circa 1935. As in the photo above, we’re fortunate in that someone has noted a few names on the photo itself, including Mabel, Mary, Sophie, and – the sole gentleman in the photo, and also the only African American – Bob. It would certainly be convenient if the original note-taker had also jotted down these folks’ last names and job titles, but historians know that a little clue is better than none. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Salganik. JMM 2004.27.7

Jewish Family and Children’s Services employees, 1971.  Though this photo is not annotated, it contains an even better clue: the woman in the center is wearing a name tag. She’s Mrs. Ida Louise Carr, Homemaker and Home Health Aide for JFCS.  (The other two women are still unidentified.) Gift of The Associated. JMM 1997.134.147

Jewish Family and Children’s Services employees, 1971. Though this photo is not annotated, it contains an even better clue: the woman in the center is wearing a name tag. She’s Mrs. Ida Louise Carr, Homemaker and Home Health Aide for JFCS. (The other two women are still unidentified.) Gift of The Associated. JMM 1997.134.147

Unfortunately, what we’re more likely to find in our collections is photo with no known names at all, or – like this photo – with only the white individuals identified.  In this case, while on a picnic in Harford County in 1920, Sylvan Eckhaus, Ruth Davis, Henry Hoffman, Miriam Davis, and Joe Naviaski posed with a young African American man, probably the driver. He looks in many ways like he’s part of this jovial group – he even has a cigar to match Mr. Eckhaus’s – but the fact that his name was not remembered hints that he was more likely a chauffeur, whose services and vehicle were hired for the day.  Gift of Betty N. Eckhaus. JMM 1992.7.14

Unfortunately, what we’re more likely to find in our collections are photos with no known names at all, or – like this photo – with only the white individuals identified. In this case, while on a picnic in Harford County in 1920, Sylvan Eckhaus, Ruth Davis, Henry Hoffman, Miriam Davis, and Joe Naviaski posed with a young African American man, probably the driver. He looks in many ways like he’s part of this jovial group – he even has a cigar to match Mr. Eckhaus’s – but the fact that his name was not remembered hints that he was more likely a chauffeur, whose services and vehicle were hired for the day. Gift of Betty N. Eckhaus. JMM 1992.7.14

Now more than ever we need to do our best by the people – all the people – who can be found in our collections.  True, their stories may not be our stories to tell; the goal isn’t to lay claim to them, but to make sure these images are accessible, remembered, and known… and that can start with a name. It’s a small thing, perhaps, but a vital one.

As always, if anyone can help us identify any people, locations, dates, or stories that accompany these images, please let us know! 

For more images showing African American life in and around Baltimore, start with the Afro-American archives or the Maryland Historical Society.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

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Once Upon a Time…11.20.2015

Posted on July 19th, 2016 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

2011029249Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  November 20, 2015

PastPerfect Accession #:  2011.029.249

Status:  Identified! Mary Huffman, a Levindale gift shop volunteer, enjoying her work, circa 1970s.

Special Thanks To: Robin Lightman (Mary Huffman’s great-niece)

 

 

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Performance Counts: Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project

Posted on July 15th, 2016 by

While we often devote the content of Performance Counts to analyzing numbers, this week’s edition instead highlights the personal stories that are at the heart of one of the most sobering statistic that we often discuss, the six million Jews (not to mention millions of others) who were murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices during the Holocaust.

In March 2017, JMM will open a new exhibition, Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity that brings together diverse projects that highlight different aspects of Holocaust history. The exhibition will be displayed in our Feldman Gallery where the visitor experience begins several centuries prior to the Holocaust when Ozwiecim, the town that eventually became known as Auschwitz, served as a site for a thriving Jewish community (A Town Known As Auschwitz from the Museum of Jewish Heritage). The community’s fortunes, however, changed significantly with the occupation of Poland by the Nazis in 1939 and visitors next examine the impact of the Nazi occupation through a display of blueprints and other documents that focus on the construction of the death camp that is now firmly associated with the town (The Architecture of Murder from the American Society for Yad Vashem). Dispersed throughout the gallery will be contemporary photographs of the camp by photographer, Keron Psillas, as well as related artifacts from the JMM collection and on loan from community members.

As plans for Remembering Auschwitz began to crystallize, it became clear that we were missing one key component, the individual stories that are central to understanding the Holocaust’s impact. We, therefore, decided to include an art installation that serves as the exhibition’s conclusion and provides an opportunity for visitors to reflect on the experiences of the people whose lives were upended by Nazi atrocities. The Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project is composed of individual plaques honoring the experiences of our local community of Holocaust survivors. This project was brought to JMM by artist, Lori Shocket and the Human Element Project. In the middle of June, Lori and her husband Neal spent two weeks in Baltimore helping facilitate workshops for Holocaust survivors, their descendants and family members. Participants were invited to bring photographs and documents that highlighted their experiences from before, during and after the Holocaust along with a personal statement. The materials that they brought were photocopied and integrated into collages on 10” x 10” canvasses. Working from photographs of the collages, Lori will then create plaques honoring each individual story that will be hung in our gallery.

Five workshops took place both at JMM and at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC. We were honored to meet nearly 20 Holocaust survivors who took part in the workshop themselves, sometimes with spouses, children, grandchildren and friends as their willing assistants. Many other children and grandchildren made collages in memory of family members who are no longer alive, some of whom perished during the Holocaust, others who survived but who have died in more recent years. Thanks to the assistance of more than a dozen volunteers, several of whom were new to JMM volunteer corps, we collected 47 beautiful collages that will be integrated into our art installation.

It was truly a privilege sorting through stacks (and sometimes bags, boxes and suitcases) of family treasures including photographs and documents and listening as participants shared stories of their beloved family members – some of whom did not survive. One thing that is clear from the collages we collected is that the experiences of our local community of Holocaust survivors are diverse. We counted more 10 countries of birth including Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Greece, Lithuania, Russia and Romania. Some collages honor the experiences of refugees whose families left Europe in the 1930s. Others experienced the horrors of confinement in camps and ghettos, while still others were hidden either alone as children or with other members of their families by generous and courageous non-Jews. We heard incredible and daring stories of escape, of survival in forests and close calls that almost resulted in arrests. By the end of each workshop, close relationships were often forged between JMM staff and volunteers and participants many of whom shared their appreciation for being given the opportunity to participate.

Although Lori and Neal returned to California, we are still holding additional workshops in an effort to collect more stories and collages. This Sunday, July 17, we will be at the JCC of Greater Washington at 12:00pm. We have timed the workshop to coincide with a monthly meeting of Montgomery County Holocaust survivors. We are also holding another workshop at JMM on Sunday, July 17 at 10:00am. JMM staff is also happy to make individual appointments so that people can come and make a collage at a time that is more convenient. For more information or to sign up for a workshop, please contact me at (443) 873-5165 / dcardin@jewishmuseummd.org.

We are grateful to the many individuals and institutions that have partnered with us on this special project including: Lori and Neal Shocket and the Human Element Project, the Baltimore Jewish Council, the Weinberg Park Heights JCC, the JCC of Greater Washington, the Center for Jewish Education and Jewish Community Services. And a huge thank you to the many wonderful volunteers, staff, board members and interns who assisted with the collages. We look forward to celebrating with everyone at the exhibit’s opening on March 5, 2017.

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