A dingy basement, a gilded age

Posted on August 24th, 2012 by

A blog post by Summer Intern Kierra Foley.

In the past several weeks, all the interns working in collections have been pulled from their respective areas of expertise (mine being the collections related to the Lloyd Street Synagogue) in order to work collectively on object inventory – a huge undertaking that occurs every three years, during which every object housed in this museum is located and documented.

As the intern known for her marked high heel penchant, it came as no surprise to my colleagues that I took a particular interest in the textiles. Particularly, the women’s clothing.

I have always held the belief that much can be discerned about the social and cultural history of a time period by a close examination of the time period’s fashion. In the boxes of this basement, there lies a quick snapshot of history through its frills (literally – badum tish!).

The first garment that really seized my attention was this gilded age petticoat, an article that once belonged to Caroline Wiesenfeld Rosenfield.

The extravagance and ideological crossfires of this era are evident in the fashion choices made by its women; it was after all, a time of stifling Victorian sensibilities, a fin-de-siècle sense of lawlessness, and the rise of a new industrial working class –all doused in shimmering gilt. This petticoat was more than likely one of the last of its kind. Petticoats of such a fashion (bell-shaped) were falling out of fashion by the late nineteenth century, in favor of more bustled and ruffled styles. A new image of more voluptuous and highly pronounced femininity strangely arose out of the repressed sexuality of the Victorian era, arguably setting the ultimate momentum for the suffrage movement that shortly followed. This petticoat is a small snapshot of an ideological movement in American history, one that championed tradition on the dawn of a changing social landscape.

And here is an example of the height of this new liberal and prosperous landscape – a flapper dress from the roaring 20’s. We all know (especially those of us that attended the JMM’s Purim party this past spring!) about the free spirit of flappers. “Looser” morals are personified here in the looser bodice, the shorter hemlines, and the freer usage of color. Women were gaining independence, in most every realm, and the lively spirit of dress, as seen in this beautiful JMM gown, embodied this.

And here, this 1940s portrait of Miriam Epstein Lansburgh is exemplary of my favorite style of dress – American war era. The simple elegance shows the ideological move back towards “traditional” American values and the desire to embody radiant sophistication. The war brought a revived surge of patriotism, bolstering the morale lost in the Great Depression. Women were again able to dabble in the frivolous realm of fashion – and convey the patriotic spirit of American traditionalism while doing so. Visions of white picket fences and nuclear families seized the nation, and elegant femininity and grace seized females. As a woman who always hopes to emulate Grace Kelly (if only palely), I find the dress and demeanor of this photograph stunning.

In short, among the wonderland of boxes, Saks Fifth Avenue has nothing on the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s basement.

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SuperKids 2012!

Posted on July 25th, 2012 by

A blog post by Education Intern Ariella Esterson.

Every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., the doors to the Jewish Museum of Maryland burst open and in run the smiling faces of the SuperKids. SuperKids is a six-week summer reading enrichment program for boys and girls in grades 2nd,3rd, and 4th. The idea of SuperKids is to combine traditional summer camp activities with enriching learning experiences that helps to prepare students to return to school in the fall. They partner with many of Baltimore’s best-known cultural and historical organizations to ensure children receive a fun and educational summer. They integrate reading and writing into all aspect of camp so while the campers are having fun, they are also working to improve their literacy skills.

When the SuperKids arrive, they immediately can’t wait to get started with the day’s activities. The kids are split into 3 groups; one group to Lloyd Street Synagogue, one to Chosen Food and one to Voices on Lombard Street. One of the docents, Lois Fekete, is in charge of the Synagogue portion and teaches the SuperKids an intro to Judaism lesson and teaches them the Hebrew Alphabet. The group in Voices of Lombard Street set out on a scavenger hunt to learn about how immigrants lived when they arrived to Baltimore. They get to play and interact with the different objects inside the exhibit, such as the kitchen set and sowing machines.

So far, all of the SuperKids have loved these interactive sections and we’ve even had trouble having the kids leave the museum! Sample questions in the scavenger hunt include “Behind you is a bathtub. Read the text panel above it. Draw a picture of what was inside,” and “Find the photograph of people on a boat. These are immigrants coming to Baltimore. What is an immigrant?” Questions such as these ensure that the SuperKids read and write, which helps to prepare them for returning to school.

The third exhibit, Chosen Food, is the last stop for the SuperKids. In here, there are three different stations. The first station is a Hechser Hunt. A Hechser is a symbol placed on foods to show that these foods are considered Kosher. These symbols include the Star-K and the OU. The concept of kosher is introduced to the kids and then food packages and a chart of the different symbols are handed out and the kids need to locate the symbol on the boxes. They get really excited and love calling out when they find one with the name of the Hechsher they found.

Now that the kids know about Jewish foods, at the next station they learn about Jewish holidays and different Jewish foods eaten on those holidays. The kids are asked what their favorite holiday is, Jewish or Secular, and what’s their favorite food to eat on that holiday. We’ve gotten responses such as turkey on Thanksgiving and candy on Halloween. We then discuss different Jewish holidays and the food eaten on those, such as Matzah on Passover and Latkes on Hanukah. We then hand out a paper with a picture of a plate and have the kids draw their favorite holiday meal. We’ve gotten many delicious designs which have made us all very hungry.

The third and final station within Chosen Food is having all the kids sit down and reading them a book titled, “Matzo Ball Soup,” written by Jennifer Littman. (http:///www.amazon.com/Matzo-Ball-Soup-Bobbed-Brewed/dp/0965643107) The book tells the story of a grandmother preparing matzo ball soup for her family to eat on the Sabbath.

It ties together the entire Chosen Food exhibit for it talks about a Jewish holiday with a specific Jewish food that is eaten. Through the entire Chosen Food exhibit, the SuperKids  read, write, and draw which is very important to aid their development as they prepare to return to school.

SuperKids is a great program that combines learning with fun. It’s so nice to see their smiling faces every week and their excitement about the museum and I can’t wait until next time!

For more information on SuperKids check out http:///www.parksandpeople.org/learn/summer-programs/superkids-camp/

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Museum Intern Olympics!

Posted on July 11th, 2012 by

Museum Intern Olympics 2012 (MIO ’12) is meant to be a fun sort of field day for museum interns. While there is an air of competition we hope to emulate the real Olympics and make this a day for folks to come together and enjoy themselves.

MIO ’12 is open to ALL museum interns. A competition team is made up of 4 interns. Interns do NOT need to be from the same museum (i.e. if you’ve only got 1 or 2 interns this summer, we’ll match them up with other interns). Non-interns (supervisors, other museum staff, etc.) are strongly encouraged to volunteer as judges for the events or simply come enjoy the spectacle and cheer from the sidelines.

Registration will be $5.00 a team (this will go to fabulous snacks and
prizes). The registration deadline for MIO ’12 is FRIDAY JULY 20th.
To register for MIO ’12 email Jobi Zink at jzink@jewishmuseummd.org with the names of all participants (both competing interns and spectating staff).

Some events will involve advance preparation. All materials for these events will be provided after registration has closed. All event materials will be provided by the Host Museum (JMM).

You will be responsible for your own transportation and lunch. Please direct all questions to Jobi Zink, jzink@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x226.

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