My six weeks at the Jewish Museum of Maryland have taught me a lot about collection management. Although I have taken classes on registration and object care for my Masters degree, I did not have the opportunity to process collections. The last institution I worked out was not actively collecting new items, so I had little experience with new acquisitions, donors, and past perfect. While working as the collections intern, I have had the chance to communicate with donors and receive new objects.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of collection management is processing new donations, which involves assigning accession numbers, creating catalog entries in past perfect, photographing, and finding a home in collection storage. At the JMM, there is certainly no shortage in donations. People and organizations in Maryland have tremendous respect for the Jewish Museum of Maryland and continue to entrust the Museum with their ancestor’s belongings, family photographs, ceremonial objects, wedding dresses, and other personal artifacts. While donations come in all shapes and sizes, one of the largest items I processed was Eddy Kramer’s accordion. The donor, who is Eddy’s nephew, provided biographical information about the accordion and Eddy Kramer’s life. This information is valuable for the museum and researchers as it helps contextualize the object’s significance to the community. Eddy served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and played accordion in the Army Air Force Band. Additionally, Eddy was picked to be part of a trio that traveled throughout the U.S. to raise money by selling war bonds. Eddy and his accordion helped raise millions of dollars for the war effort.
Another interesting accession was a tea set donated by the Sinai Nurses Alumnae. These objects were used at Friday afternoon teas hosted by the school of nursing. According to the donor, the purpose of the tea was “to make ladies out of us.” The tea set includes two teapots, a sterno, a stand for the sterno, a sugar bowl, and a creamer. Many of the objects have intricate floral designs and the initials “SN.” It was fun assigning numbers to each object and its parts, photographing these pieces, and determining the best way to house silver. My fellow archives and photographs interns were simultaneously going through other materials related to the Sinai School of Nursing. These other materials helped me learn about the history of the Sinai Nursing School and why this tea set is an important addition to JMM’s collection.
These are just two examples of the old, delicate, beautiful, and sometimes strange objects I get to handle each day at my internship. The collection is really impressive and will continue to grow with generous donations.