Many Hands Make Light Work; Or, Changing Our Exhibits

Posted on June 26th, 2015 by

The Amazing Mendes Cohen closed on June 14th, and Cinema Judaica opens on July 1st. In between, while one exhibit comes down and the other goes up, our visitors have one less gallery to see.

Authorized personnel only, please!

Authorized personnel only, please!

Let’s lift that veil of secrecy* for a moment, and reveal a little of the behind-closed-doors work of  changing out an exhibit. Alas, no magic wands or helpful elves are involved; all the dismantling, painting, fabrication, artifact prep, and label writing requires the work of many hands.

Eight of the dozen or more people who helped take down Mendes in a single day.

Eight of the dozen or more people who helped take down Mendes in a single day.

Some exhibitions are straightforward, and easy to plan far in advance. Others require a little more on-the-spot decision making. The traveling Cinema Judaica exhibit was created by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum from the extensive collections of Ken Sutak. HUC-JIR sends out an assortment of posters, depending on what’s available at any given time, and the borrowing museum can choose the titles (and poster sizes) that will best suit their plans and their gallery. Unfortunately, in this case the posters couldn’t arrive at the JMM more than a few weeks before the exhibit opened. When they arrived, Intern Kaleigh and I had fun opening up the boxes, discovering which posters had been sent, and starting on the condition reports. . . then the planning had to begin in earnest.

After making an initial cull of the poster options – and keeping in mind the images coming from other lenders – I wrote up a list and recruited three of our summer interns to help plan the exhibit layout in situ, using stand-in handwritten notes taped to the walls. After the first round, we ran out of room: still too many posters! It was decision time. Do we like Kirk Douglas better in “The Juggler” or in “Cast a Giant Shadow”? Was there room for all six versions of “The Ten Commandments” posters? (Answer: no.)  Could I get all five George Sanders movies on the walls? (Answer: yes.) Which large images would look best on the high-visibility walls, and which smaller items were less impactful? Once those questions were sorted, we started hanging up the real things.

Planning potential layouts.

Planning potential layouts.

Thankfully, this is where my skills and labor were less needed. I like hanging pictures, and I pride myself on doing a good job – but a gallery of this size, with over 50 items to hang, requires more than just a tape measure, a hammer, and my ‘eye’ for spacing.  We called in our expert consultants (courtesy of Mark Ward and his team) who have been working hard to prepare the posters, hang them securely and evenly, and generally ensure our exhibit looks as fantastic as possible.

Mat cutting! Laser levels!

Mat cutting! Laser levels!

Things are coming together nicely; we’re not there yet – but hey, we have until Wednesday morning, when the “no entry” signs come down.  Meanwhile, you can prepare for the opening of Cinema Judaica by spending the weekend watching your favorite old movies (might I suggest a personal favorite, “Foreign Correspondent”?), then visit us next week when the Feldman Gallery doors are open wide once again!

Installing "The Ten Commandments."

Installing “The Ten Commandments.”

*Since the work is frequently rather loud, and there’s no way to sneak all the artifacts and labels and equipment into the room without going through the lobby, it’s not really all that secret a process; many visitors get their own, in-person behind-the-scenes look – if they happen to visit at the right moment. We’ve also featured the exhibit installation process many times on the blog, such as here, here, and here.

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Friedenwald and France: A Connection I Was Not Expecting

Posted on June 25th, 2015 by

 

My work as an exhibitions intern centers around an upcoming exhibit called Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. However, I am also preparing to spend nine months studying abroad in Toulouse, France, beginning in September of this year. I’ve been studying French since middle school, so this has been a longstanding interest of mine. This internship is keeping me busy so that I am not constantly worrying about this big change I’ll be encountering come September. But there have already been a few times this summer when a project has reminded me of my upcoming travels to France.

I’ve come across a collection of images that create a connection between France and the Jews & Medicine exhibit. The Friedenwald family was a sort of medical dynasty in Baltimore, with multiple family members succeeding in the medical field. It just so happens that they are featured in the Jews & Medicine exhibit, but there are also images in the collection with France as the subject.

JMM 1984.023.196

JMM 1984.023.196

This is a postcard of a statue of Edward Jenner, the pioneer of the smallpox vaccine and often called the father of immunology. He was an English physician, but the statue is in Boulogne Sur Mer, France. This image connected my projects on medical history here at JMM to France, reminding me of what is to come. These seem like random connections, but to me they are much more. They link passions to my present and future experiences, allowing me to enjoy my work here and get excited for the Fall at the same time.

JMM 1984.023.1421

JMM 1984.023.1421

This is just a simple photograph of the Eiffel Tower in 1931, but it is also in the Friedenwald collection. Imagine that you have two passions, but at this point in your life they have remained somewhat separate. And then something happens and you are able to experience the two interests at the same time. This is how I feel. My interests in museums and France can certainly be linked, but I do not often experience their connection unless I am reading a newspaper article or am actually in a French museum. But here they are linked; here I am able to think about them together.

JMM 1985.090.031

JMM 1985.090.031

This image is from a different collection, but it highlights an interest as well. It is a photograph of servicemen and servicewomen along with civilians sitting at rows of tables for a Passover seder in a synagogue in Reims, France, in March 1945. This is personally interesting not only because I’ll be traveling in France, but also because I am Jewish. I’m excited for the opportunity to learn about Jewish culture in France, and hopefully I will be able to celebrate Jewish holidays while in France just like the seder in this photo.

Before the summer began, I knew I’d be working on the Jews & Medicine exhibit, but I did not know that a collection used for the exhibit would also connect to my study abroad plans. This has allowed me to recognize both passions, instead of pushing one aside while working on the other.
SophiaA blog post by Exhibitions Intern Sophia Brocenos. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




It Takes a Village

Posted on June 24th, 2015 by

 

Unfortunately, not all exhibits are permanent, and in the case of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, there was an expiration date. That date was Monday, June 15, 2015 when Minotaur Mazes (hyperlink: http://www.minotaurmazes.com/) came to pick up their traveling exhibition, and Mendes Cohen would be on his way to a new adventure in Texas. The morning began early as everyone from the museum’s Deputy Director, Deborah Cardin to the summer interns were breaking down the a-mazing maze.

First, Joanna Church, the Collections Manager, and the conservators, moved out the fragile and valuable objects such as Mendes’s flag. Pictured here is one of the conservators using nitrile gloves to handle objects.

First, Joanna Church, the Collections Manager, and the conservators, moved out the fragile and valuable objects such as Mendes’s flag. Pictured here is Sanchita  Balachandran, curator & conservator, using nitrile gloves to handle objects.

Laying out the panels

Next came down all the panels, both graphic and green, and they were carefully rolled as to not leave any crease marks.

IMG_1304

The interactives that all the visitors love to play with were unscrewed from the exhibit, and packed carefully in Styrofoam or even blankets. They were placed in the crate carefully and strategically so that damage would not occur during transportation.

Things got serious when Tracie Guy-Decker, the Associate Director for Projects, Planning and Finance (right), began using a power drill like a boss.

Things got serious when Tracie Guy-Decker, the Associate Director for Projects, Planning and Finance (right), began using a power drill like a boss.

Then the poles were strategically unscrewed and pulled apart bit by bit. For people without a lot of arm muscles (me), the struggle was real.

Then the poles were strategically unscrewed and pulled apart bit by bit. For people without a lot of arm muscles (me), the struggle was real.

The poles were also placed in the wooden crates tactically so that when it would be ready to set up in Texas, the poles that would be going on the floor (the foundation) would be the first to come out of the box. That way, the exhibit can literally be built from the bottom-up.

The poles were also placed in the wooden crates tactically so that when it would be ready to set up in Texas, the poles that would be going on the floor (the foundation) would be the first to come out of the box. That way, the exhibit can literally be built from the bottom-up.

Once we were sure everything was loaded, the top of the crates were screwed in. By Tuesday morning, Mendes Cohen was ready to leave the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Once we were sure everything was loaded, the top of the crates were screwed in. By Tuesday morning, Mendes Cohen was ready to leave the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

For a smaller museum, we often rely on each other to succeed, no matter what position you have. This was made clear when almost every department head, conservator, intern, and a museum educator, graciously set aside their day to pack up an exhibit. It may not necessarily take a village to de-install an exhibition, but it’s certainly more fun to.

Stay tuned for our upcoming exhibit, Cinema Judaica, opening Wednesday, July 1st!

IMG_0994A blog post by Education and Programs Intern Eden Cho. To read more posts from interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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