Posted on January 16th, 2015 by Rachel
Since starting as Collections Manager in August of last year, JMM has already accessioned more than 70 items from the daily life of Maryland’s Jewish communities. We’ve been pleased to receive offers of a wide variety of items – from single items to multiple boxes, from large paintings to small snapshots, from the 19th century to the 21st. Nearly every week has brought a new opportunity to check out something interesting, which might be of use to the museum.
As a collections professional, I’m inclined by both duty and temperament to appreciate almost anything that’s ever been made, used and saved by someone. In other words, I love stuff. But we simply can’t take everything that is offered to us. Fortunately, like many museums the JMM has a committee of Board members, staff, and other museum professionals who help ensure that only appropriate items are accepted as donations to our permanent collection: artifacts, photos, and archival material that relate to Jewish life in Maryland, in good condition, for which we can adequately care and which we envision using in exhibits, research, and interpretation.
But enough about the inner workings of the committee process – you want to see the stuff! Here are a few highlights from recent offers.
-Joanna Church, Collections Manager
Pharmacy show globe, Hagerstown/Hancock, Md. JMM#K2014.003.035
Donated by Dr. Adolph “Ed” Baer, P.D.
Though we don’t always have the opportunity to exhibit artifacts right away, the vintage pharmaceutical items donated by Dr. Baer will be of almost immediate use as we prepare the upcoming exhibit “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America” (opening fall 2015). Dr. Baer graduated from the University of Maryland pharmacy school, and went on to own and operate two pharmacies in western Maryland. In addition to the modern tools and equipment he used over the years, Dr. Baer also donated several antique pieces, including this large glass “show globe.” Show globes, filled with colored liquid (ours was emptied for the purpose of donation and transport), were placed in shop windows as a symbol of the apothecary’s or pharmacist’s trade; modern pharmacists such as Dr. Baer often collect and display them, in a nod to their profession’s history.
The Colonial Chronicle, Annapolis, Md. JMM#2014.041
Donated by Tylar Hecht for the Allen J. Reiter Lodge of B’nai B’rith
Though registrars like myself do enjoy cataloging and processing donations, we also love it when the donor does some of that good work for us. Tylar Hecht brought in 40 years of The Colonial Chronicle, the newsletter of B’nai B’rith Annapolis Lodge No. 1239, associated with Kneseth Israel (Annapolis’s oldest congregation). In addition to the papers themselves, the donation included many of the original photographs used in the paper – which Mr. Hecht, with the help of older members of the congregation, sorted and identified for us before delivery. Their efforts mean that this collection will be accessible to researchers more quickly than if the JMM staff and volunteers needed to start fresh.
A selection of items from the Community Garden Club archives, Baltimore, Md. JMM#2015.002
Donated by Ruth Taubman for the Community Garden Club.
Likewise, the members of the Community Garden Club of the JCC (Baltimore) took the time to gather and organize materials from their 50+ year history, including programs, awards, photos, newsletters, and directories. The Club was founded in 1962 by a group of women taking flower-arranging classes at the newly-built Park Heights JCC; over the years the members have worked on landscaping projects at a number of landmarks around the city, and they were the first Jewish garden club to join the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland. Though not very active today, several original members were determined to collect as much of the club’s records as possible, to ensure that their history is preserved at the JMM archives.
Shomrei Mishmeres signs, Baltimore, Md. JMM#2014.045.001-002
Gift of Rabbi David E. Miller, Rabbi Michael S. Miller, Deborah L. Kram and Judith S. Kalish.
In a wonderful coincidence, one of the first things offered to the JMM after I started was a pair of early 20th century hand-lettered signs used by the Shomrei Mishmeres congregation in the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Tobias Miller, then President of Shomrei Mishmeres, took these signs with him when the synagogue building was sold to the new Jewish Historical Society (now the JMM); his grandchildren recently decided that these two pieces should “come home” to Lloyd Street. We’re always glad to find artifacts and records from the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s long history; such a meaningful and thoughtful donation was a fantastic way to start off my work here at the JMM!
Left: “It is strictly forbidden to speak and to converse when the congregation prays or the Holy Bible is being read. He who will not obey the prohibition, in addition to his sinning this great sin, he is transgressing the accepted norm, and therefore will be fined towards the synagogue.”
Right: “By order of the members of this Shul: It is not permitted to remove the prayer shawls before reciting kaddish recited at ‘Anim Zemirot.’ He who will not obey, shall be severely punished.”
Posted on February 15th, 2013 by Rachel
A blog post by Jobi Zink.
Here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland our collections comprise material culture artifacts, written documents and photographs owned by, made by, or used by Maryland Jews. As you can imagine, this is a vast and varied assortment of materials! We cannot possibly take everything that is offered to us, so the Collections Committee reviews each item offered to determine what is in good condition; has potential for exhibition, publication, or education program; has context or a story; balances the ordinary and the specific and personal.
As the Registrar, it’s my job to screen everything brought in. Many donations come in as people are downsizing, or cleaning up the attic. Sometimes people just can’t bear to throw anything away. I will flatly reject completely unidentified photographs—if the donor can’t tell me any bit of information, the photograph isn’t going to be useful to anyone else. Classified documents from the National Archives belong at the National Archives! Items with active mildew or requiring thousands of dollars of conservation services are generally declined.
Documentary photographs are going to have to stand in for the original certificate.
On the other hand, when the Jewish Times was moving their offices they offered us their photo collection dating back to the 1970s. Most of these photographs are identified by event, organization, and date, if not the individuals. While it will take us time to process everything, this is truly a treasure trove of documented Baltimore Jewish history!
Many artifacts come in as a direct result of a collecting initiative related to an exhibition. For example, when we were preparing for Ours to Fight For, an exhibition about the Jews who served during the second World War, we truly wanted a photograph of every single Jewish serviceman and servicewoman from Maryland. While we couldn’t house more uniforms, we certainly had room to recording first-person accounts, stories, and experiences. We now hope to expand our documentation to Maryland Jews serving in all other eras.
Black and white photograph of the Matz brothers in their WWII service uniforms standing at the corner of Patterson Park and Fairmont Avenue (L-R): Herbert (US Army Air Forces) , Wilbur (Army), Lester (Army), Jacob (joined the army the following year) and Charles (in front.)
Just last week I had a call from a woman who wanted to donate her mother’s navy blue Neighborhood Watch uniform that she wore for patrol during air raids during World War II, along with her Red Cross certificates and a ration book. I was very interested in the item, as I hadn’t heard about neighborhood watches in Baltimore. Sadly, when I learned that the woman was from Northwest Pennsylvania I had to decline the gift.
As anyone who has visited our Voices of Lombard Street exhibition could tell you, East Baltimore was once a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Rabbi Herbert Kessler’s ledger, 1940, provides the family name and address of the circumcisions he performed in East Baltimore. In 2011 the Museum purchased 10 trays of Hebrew wood block type used by Romm Press, owned by Leon Romm in Baltimore, to print posters for Yiddish Theater in Baltimore until 1945.
Baltimore has a rich history of breweries and brewmasters. The Hoffberger family owned National Brewing Company—and the Orioles! But we turned down an older, more historic bottle from the Gottlieb Baueren Schmidt Strauss Brewing company because it wasn’t Jewish-owned.
I do get very excited when we receive a trifecta—object, photograph, and document from a historic event. In 2010 we received the gold-colored vessel in which the Rogers Avenue Synagogue burned their mortgage in 1987 to accompany the program and photographs from the event
Several years ago, the Collections Committee decided that we have enough tallit, tallit bags, tefillin and tefillin bags in the collection and put a moratorium on collecting these items. However, when David and Zelda Schuman offered his grandfather’s tallis bag reportedly used for his bar mitzvah, held on February 8, 190 at the Russiche Shule (now B’nai Israel) with the story that the smoke and flames from the Great Baltimore fire could be seen, the committee made an exception!
As this is President’s Day weekend, I thought I might close with items in our holdings at the intersection of the Jewish community and politics. One of the more surprising pieces of Judaica in our collection is a Kiddush cup engraved “T.R.Mc.K/ [Theodore R. McKeldin] Har Brook Hebrew Cong. June 24th, 1962.” While McKeldin certainly wasn’t Jewish, the Jews of Maryland were very fond of him. We also have a collection of tie tacks, and cufflinks given to him by various Jewish organizations. Other non-Jewish politicians are represented in our collection: Governor Bob Ehrlich wore a suede yarmulke at the Governor’s Chanukah party, Martin O’Malley appealed to Baltimore’s Jewish population during his “Believe” campaign with a pin in Hebrew, while Barack Obama had bumper stickers with his name on it
Only about 1% of our collections are included in any exhibition, but the JMM is proud to make our collections accessible via an online database (jmm.pastperfect-online.com). Please “tour” our collections to see what else we have!