Inventory, Inventory, Inventory (or…where is all that stuff??)

Posted on July 10th, 2012 by

A blog post by Photo Archives Intern Matt Oliva.

The process for photograph inventory is simple; sit down in a small basement room in front of a computer and grab a large box of photos. Inside that box will be several archival folders. Inside those folders reside dozens, if not hundreds of photographs. Locate the object number on the back of the image; type it into the computer and go. Then repeat this process for several hours a day, five days a week. If this doesn’t sound like the best job ever to you too, you’re probably crazy.  The JMM’s photograph collection is vast and full of really interesting pictures, from Victorian cabinet cards to portraits of children:

1992.242.006.037b and 1992.242.005.031a

Even though the boxes and folders are labeled, the actually content of the images is usually a complete surprise. In one box you might find an incredible turn of the century studio portrait:


And in the next, snapshots of women showing off the best of 1980’s fashion.

2000.135.035 and 2000.135.049

While I’ve been perfectly happy working with pieces of paper for the last five weeks, for the past two days all of the archive interns have been thrown into the world of three dimensions through object inventory. Where working with the photograph collection is basically a desk job with a lot of minute tasks, object inventory is the opposite. Object inventory is carrying a very valuable looking cut glass jar down a maybe four foot wide aisle while attempting not to run into the two other interns walking towards you with objects and simultaneously avoid the large box that appeared in the middle of the floor while your back was turned. Object inventory isn’t pulling photographs out of a folder individually; it’s clearing an entire shelf of extremely breakable objects one at a time to get to a single tiny paperweight that somehow ended up at the very back. It’s cringing whenever you hear a clink or bang from anywhere in the room.


Working with objects is really a great change of pace from my entirely photograph-based existence. There’s something incredibly interesting about actual but unusual household objects; the Cyrillic typewriter, the ornate art deco trophies, or the entire shelf of porcelain spittoons. Until these past few days I had never really considered working with anything but photographs or documents, as photography was my first love and what brought me to the museum field. I’m really excited to see what other items I find in the next few weeks, and experience different parts of the museum world.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Mystery in the Mikveh

Posted on July 2nd, 2012 by

A blog post by LSS Archaeology Intern Karen Bishop.

A few weeks ago a few of my fellow interns and I tagged along on a lighting meeting with a representative from Sylvania light bulbs, who are helping the museum phase out the use of incandescent light. While touring the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue one bulb in particular caught everyone’s eye– the bulb lighting the mikveh (a bath used for ritual purification).

The lighting specialist was very intrigued, and although he didn’t know its exact age, he guessed it was at least from the 1920’s. You can clearly see the looped path of the filament and the pointed tip of the glass bulb indicates that it was likely hand-blown. Jobi is sending a few photos to a specialist who hopefully will be able to tell us its exact age. It is amazing that it still works considering it is turned on and off every time The Synagogue Speaks exhibition is opened for the public, four days a week!

My and Kierra’s main project for the summer is to inventory the contents of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Most of the time we are detailing old records and reconciling object numbers and photographs. The mikveh light bulb is an interesting surprise, as we will get to do some research and make a new record for it.  As of now we’re not sure where the light came from or how long it’s been screwed into its current location.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Drawing from History

Posted on June 27th, 2012 by

A blog post by Education Intern Lisa Perrin.

Paper dolls are very dear to my heart. I collected them obsessively as a child and fretted endlessly about whether or not to cut them out. I loved the costumes and the potential for storytelling in each paper doll book. And I did not realize it at the time, but I was learning. Paper dolls shaped my sense of history. When I think of the Civil War era I envision hoop skirts and mutton chops. I can picture the straight silhouettes of the 1920s and the flared, tailored dresses of the 1950s. Knowing about the styles of those eras has helped me better understand them in a grander sense.

An example of a paper doll I was commissioned to make for the Mutter Museum gift store in Philadelphia, PA of Dr. Mutter, for whom the museum is named.

It will come as no surprise that I began to make my own paper dolls inspired by history and literature. I also sold them through an online Etsy shop and discovered that many people feel a special connection to this simple toy. During my education department internship interview with the Jewish Museum of Maryland I mentioned my passion for making paper dolls. I was met with a great sense of enthusiasm and an idea for a project. I was asked to create a series of paper dolls representing famous Maryland Jews to be used as learning tools. I am very excited because I know of very few paper dolls depicting Jewish people.

A working sketch of my first paper doll: Mendes Cohen, a Jewish man who served in the war of 1812.

My hope is to make paper dolls that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds as a unique and fun way to educate them about the history of the Jewish people in this state.

Stay tuned for updated posted on my progress!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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