Posted on April 28th, 2014 by Rachel
As winterns turn to spring interns, which will soon bring us to our summer interns, it seems an appropriate time for me to reflect upon my own summer internship at the JMM, nearly two years ago. Fresh from my college graduation, I arrived at the JMM, ready to learn about museum education and to immerse myself into a meaningful project. There’s truly no better feeling than to see a museum utilizing something you worked on, whether it’s seeing your name and parts of your research within an exhibition, or seeing a school group participate in an activity that you designed.
My internship project in the summer of 2012 (which already seems like a lifetime ago!) was to create an activity pack for teachers to use in their classrooms that would make use of our own collection to teach grade school students about immigration to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For ten weeks I researched the evolution of immigration and naturalization laws, brainstormed fun activities that would make the topic interesting and relevant to young children, and chose the objects from our collection that I thought best told the story of American immigration. At the end of the summer, I had a PDF that was 45 pages long (including scanned photos of the objects and an answers sheet) of which I was very proud, but I had the sinking feeling that the link to download it from our website was going to collect layers of cyber dust.
For a few months after my internship ended, and I began working here full-time, this was true. But then Ilene Dackman-Alon started discussing the idea of re-imagining the activities that we do with students in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. Many of our visiting school groups come year after year, and a few of the teachers were asking whether we had anything besides a scavenger hunt to do. In fact, we were getting a litte bored with the scavenger hunt format as well. This is not to say that most of the teachers disliked our scavenger hunt—in fact, many of them say in their field trip evaluations that they loved the scavenger hunt and why didn’t the other exhibits have them too? But it was clear to us that there was so much more that we could be doing with the Voices exhibit.
At the same time, Ilene had been thinking hard about different ways in which we could align ourselves with the Common Core Curriculum in the public schools. One theme that is stressed in the Common Core—and is a natural connection to the JMM—is the use of primary sources. Ilene asked me to adapt one of the classroom activities that I’d created so that it tied into the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit. I chose one that asked students to use close observation skills to glean information about the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. from three different naturalization certificates (the piece of paper that you get when you become a citizen). To add a personal aspect to the lesson, we decided that the activity should be preceded by an educator guiding them quickly through the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit, and then asking the students to take a couple of minutes to write down a quotation from the exhibit to which they related or felt a close connection. After sharing these verbal primary sources with the class, the students are ready to look at documentary primary sources that will teach them about history, identity and citizenship, and maybe even a little bit about bureaucracy!
Leading an Immigration Archival Activity
After a few guinea-pig classes (which showed me that I needed to re-order the questions so that the simplest ones were first), we now have an Immigration Archival Activity that we use either for groups that are starting to use primary sources in their classroom projects, or are simply too old to appreciate scavenger hunts.
Deep in thought!
Ilene helps students decipher their documents
A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.
Posted on March 24th, 2014 by Rachel
It all started with a lunch time conversation between Esther, Jobi, Sylvia (one of our volunteers), and myself. It was two or three weeks before Purim, and we were discussing all the different types of hamantaschen and debating their merits. Should one use cake dough or cookie dough? Is chocolate an acceptable filling? (the consensus on that last one was “no.”) And most importantly, of our own individual recipes for hamantaschen, whose was the best?
Then Sylvia said the fateful words: “You know there is only way to decide this, right? You have to have a hamantaschen bake off!”
We immediately knew that she was right. Esther, Jobi, and I quickly drew up some rules and guidelines for the contest and sent out an email to the staff, encouraging them and their volunteers to participate. The date was set for the Thursday following Purim to allow ample time for preparation.
Over the weekend of Purim, I camped out at my parents’ house so my mother could help me recreate her mother’s recipe. All Friday and Saturday, we bent over circles upon circles of dough, spooning lekvar or apricot jam into them and folding them into little triangles. (Funny story: having only ever heard my Bubby, who had a very strong Newark accent, say the word “lekvar,” I could never tell—until just now—if the word was supposed to be pronounced “lekvah” or “lekvar.” Fortunately, that’s what Google is for.) The process was a bittersweet one for us this year. My Bubby died a year last Sunday, and for the last ten or more years of her life, she’d always come down to Baltimore to stay with us over Purim, and we’d make hamantaschen together. It felt very appropriate to commemorate the anniversary by making hamantaschen together.
The author making hamantaschen
Last Thursday, the day of the contest, four very different plates of hamantaschen made by two staff members and two volunteers entered the doors of the JMM. We had decided to make everything anonymous: nobody except for the competitors knew who had made the hamantaschen, and judging was open to anyone who wanted to participate. We were surprised by just how different each batch was: besides my very traditional lekvar (prune and raisin) and apricot hamantaschen, there were blueberry hamantaschen with dough that had a texture similar to scones, a batch that had a prune and mun (poppy seed) filling that tasted a bit like fig, and a very experimental batch with crispy chocolate dough filled with cream cheese and chocolate chips! All were delicious in their own way.
At first, it seemed that the chocolate/cream cheese hamantaschen were in the lead because we couldn’t stop talking about them. But when the judging had finished, and we tallied the votes, the dark horse blueberry hamantaschen came in first! The chocolate ones came in as a close second, and the prune/mun and the lekvar/apricot ones tied for third.
At this point, we revealed the bakers:
The winning blueberry hamantaschen were made by none other than docent Robyn Hughes!
The chocolate and cream cheese hamantaschen were made by our Marketing and Development Manager, Rachel Kassman.
The prune and mun hamantaschen were made by archives volunteer Dana Willan.
And, of course, the lekvar and apricot hamantaschen were made by me.
Congratulations and Mazel Tov to Robyn Hughes, who gets the glory and bragging rights for making the best hamantaschen…until next year!
Thank you to everyone who participated, both has bakers and judges!
A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click HERE.
Posted on March 21st, 2014 by Rachel
I’m very excited to hear that the JMM will be opening a new exhibit all about my favorite game: Mah Jongg! I’m actually from Boston, but I have a sister-in-law in Baltimore, so I’ve heard about your museum, and I’ve been curious about it for awhile. This spring seems like the perfect time to finally make a visit, and I’d like to bring some of my girlfriends with me.
My girlfriends and I are in an unusual kind of “mahj” group: we do destination Mah Jongg! This means that we like to play in special locations. For example, last Mother’s Day we ditched the hubbies and played Mah Jongg for 48 straight hours in Las Vegas. It was such a thrill! If you can imagine it, it was kind of like one of those big poker tournaments that they have on TV, but with kosher food and better gossip.
Anyway, I hear from my sister-in-law that, in addition to seeing the exhibit, you can also reserve a few tables to play Mah Jongg at the museum itself. That would be perfect for our next destination! What do I have to do make a reservation? Does it cost anything?
I look forward to hearing from you, and to fleecing my friends of all their quarters in a rousing game at the JMM!
“Mahj” from Boston
Wow, that’s quite a group you’ve got! Yes, it is true that we will have about six card tables set up in our Orientation Space that groups can reserve for 2 hour time slots. You should talk to me either by phone or email about bringing your group in to see the exhibit and playing a game or two of Mahj. There is no extra fee for reserving a table to play, so you will only have to pay $5 per person if you are bringing a group of 10 or more during our public hours.
If you wanted to bring your group here after our public hours, then the charge will be $40 per hour that we have to stay open past our usual hours. This fee simply covers our costs associated with staying open.
During the exhibit’s time here (March 30 to June 29), there will be some occasions when we will not take any reservations. Some of these are on days when we have all-day public programs that will need to use the Orientation Space (for example, a Mah Jongg Marathon—keep your eyes peeled for more news on that soon!). Other times will include the hours when we have a scheduled speaker. If you’re thinking of coming in to play on a Sunday, just know that the best times for which to sign up are at 11am or 3pm, since our speakers are usually on Sundays at 1pm.
While the tables in the Orientation Space are not for impromptu games of Mah Jongg, there will be one table inside the exhibit itself that will be set up for impromptu playing or “playing” for anyone who wants to just move the tiles around. For these tables, we ask that you write your name on the sign-up form inside the exhibit and limit your playing to about 30 minutes if people are waiting for a chance to play.
I hope that answered all of your questions. Can’t wait to see your group at the JMM!
You won’t want to miss the opening of this great exhibit!
I am writing a novel that is a semiautobiographical-mystery-thriller family saga stretching from the turn of the 20th century to the 1980’s, set in Baltimore. I would like to do some research both about what life was like in those decades, as well as some research into my own family history. In starting the research for this book, I’ve come across a few family skeletons, including the mystery of the location of the body of my Great-Aunt Fannie, who was shunned by her family for not serving crab at her son’s bar mitzvah! Can you imagine—not a crab cake or even a coddy in sight? Since the whole family refused to attend her funeral, there’s no one left who can remember where she was buried. I know that the JMM has a lot of this kind of information in their archives, so can I stop by sometime to do my research? Is there a research fee? I think I’m a member of the museum, but honestly, I can’t remember.
Thank you for your help!
The Future Laura Lippman
Dear Future Laura Lippman,
Not to be a grouch, but I’m afraid we need to insist that on-site research can only be done here by appointment, and we need a few weeks of lead time to arrange it. We have a very small staff, with all of us wearing several hats, which means that we need a little extra time to complete research requests.
Let me first suggest that if you’re looking for something specific in our collections or trying to find where your Great-Aunt Fannie is buried, the first place to stop is our online collections database! If you go to our website (www.jewishmuseummd.org) and go to the “Collections & Research” section, you’ll find many resources, including a link to search through our collections and archives. In the Family History section, we even have downloadable spreadsheets for all of the Jewish cemeteries in Baltimore, so you can find where your ancestors were buried.
If you want more help, you will want to call our designated research phone extension at (410) 732-6400 x213 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, if it’s a genealogy question you have, you can call this extension, (410) 732 6400 x224, or email email@example.com–to submit your contact information and research question. A staff member will get in touch with you to make an appointment. Depending on demand, this may take a few weeks.
If you are a member, then you can do research here for free! For non-members, it’s $8 per visit, and for non-member students it’s $8 per project (so you can visit multiple times and pay only once). This fee also includes admission to the museum, for when you feel like taking a break and wandering through the galleries.
I can’t wait to read your book when it’s finished!
I’ve been a member of the JMM for many, many years, but lately, I’ve become a real katzisher kop, and I’m afraid that I will forget to bring my membership card with me the next time I come to visit the museum. If I do forget, will I still be able to get free admission? More importantly, will I still get my 10% discount at your fabulous gift shop? Next week, my cousin is visiting, and I plan on bringing him down to see your latest exhibit, and the fear of forgetting all of these important things is keeping me up at night! Speaking of which, should I use one of my guest passes for my cousin, or is he included in my family membership?
I’m sorry to hear that your forgetfulness is keeping you from getting your beauty sleep! Well, you can rest easy now, because there’s no reason that forgetting to bring your card should keep you from enjoying your membership benefits. When you arrive at the museum, simply tell the person at the front desk your first and last name, and they will confirm your membership status for you by looking at our list of current members. You can also do this if you can’t remember whether or not you’ve renewed your membership for the coming year.
Family memberships cover up to six members within a single household, so unless your cousin lives with you (and it sounds like he does not), then he is not included in the family membership. That being said, this is the perfect time to use one of your guest passes! But please do remember to bring the guest pass with you when you bring your guest (perhaps put it in your bag or pants pocket the night before). Your cousin will have to fill out the back of the guest pass with his information before handing it to the front-desk person.
We’ll see you soon!
I’m planning a program for my sisterhood, and I’m having a lot of trouble finding a good speaker for the group! They’re an intellectually curious bunch, so I want to provide a speaker who will really pique their interest. Someone told me a long time ago that you offer a Speakers Bureau, but I think I’ve also heard that you no longer offer that Speakers Bureau. Which is true? Can you help me find a speaker?
Thank you for your help!
“Desperate in Columbia’
Dear “Desperate in Columbia’,
It is true that we used to have a Speakers Bureau, in which we charged organizations a fee to have a talk delivered by a member of our research or curatorial team. We no longer do that. We have so many exciting projects ahead that we need our creative team to keep its focus on programs and exhibitions.
On the other hand, we are happy to talk to groups about our exhibits! If you have a sizable group (25 or more people), consider inviting our director, Marvin Pinkert to come speak. Schedule permitting, Marvin is happy to talk about the latest topics in our featured exhibit at JMM. For example, in honor of our quickly approaching new exhibit, Project Mah Jongg, Marvin has developed a fascinating talk on the history of Jews and games—as both players and creators—that stretches back to the days of the Bible! Unlike our Speakers Bureau, these talks are free of charge.
If such a talk sounds like a good fit for your event, you can talk to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) about scheduling him to come talk to your group.
My parents are finally downsizing from the home they’ve lived in for 40-odd years to a condo, and my siblings and I have been helping them sort through what we think they should keep and what they should give away or throw out. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff there is in their attic! The condo is pretty small, so they can’t keep much, but a lot of it is in pretty good condition, so we feel bad throwing it away. Could I bring down all this stuff to donate it to the museum?
Child of Hoarders
Dear “Child of Hoarders,”
It depends on what kind of “stuff” you’re talking about. If it’s a sewing machine, then probably not —we’ve got six already! It also depends on where this attic is located. Is this attic in Maryland, or does it belong to someone who lives or lived for a significant period of time in Maryland? We only collect objects that pertain to Jewish life in Maryland, so if your parents lived all their lives in Virginia, then I’m afraid we won’t be interested in their belongings. However, if these objects are directly related to people who live or lived in Maryland, then we might possibly be interested in adding them to our collections.
But please don’t just drop it on our doorstep!
First, you should call our Collections Manager, Jobi Zink, and ask her if she thinks we’ll want it for our collection, and she will tell you what to do next. If she thinks that we might be interested in your parents’ things, then she will present the objects to our Collections Committee, which decides which new objects the museum will accession.
Dear Abby is written by our Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.