Invaluable Archives

Posted on November 20th, 2013 by

Since my last update, I have learned so much more about Baltimore Jewish history by processing a wide variety of collections. Entering the library closed stacks, I am never quite sure what lies in store for me within the mysterious archival boxes. In the case of the library closed stacks, no two collections are alike!

Over the past month, I accessioned photographs, cookbooks, invoices, holiday cards, invitations, financial documents, and all manner of fascinating manuscript materials for the archives. I strongly encourage anyone interested in Baltimore history to conduct research in our archives. I recently processed original documents pertaining to the career of Lun (Licien) Harris, a fashion illustrator who was an active preservationist and founding member of Baltimore Heritage. Lun Harris was appointed to the Baltimore City Planning Commission and voted against interstate highways through Baltimore. This month, I accessioned several of Harris’ photographs as well as original diplomas and awards for the JMM archives.

Here is a photograph of Lun Harris in a three-way mirror. The scan is available in the JMM’s digital records, but we also have the original in our extensive photograph collection.

2008.95.1

2008.95.1

Beyond  Lun Harris’ photographs, we also have various documents pertaining to this remarkable woman’s lifetime achievements courtesy of Linda Lapides. For example, here we have Harris’ gorgeous certificate commemorating her service with the Baltimore City Planning Commission:

 2008.95.12

2008.95.12

Although this scan is available for research most of the JMM’s twenty thousand catalog records are not digitized. Anyone interested in Baltimore history would benefit from the materials available in our archival collections. As much as I enjoy digitizing new accession materials,  I am amazed by the sheer volume of physical manuscripts, books, paintings, maps, blueprints, and other original documents in the archives. As a history student at UMBC, I am pleased that such a wealth of local history is readily available.

Another compelling collection from this past month, donated by Morton Esterson, includes more recent records. JMM archives include not only faded original manuscripts but also recent records of Jewish life in Baltimore.  These resources, preserved in the permanent collection, will be readily available for future generations. My interest in these recent documents in particular sprang from my personal contact with the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Holocaust Speakers Bureau as a UMBC Jewish student leader. While I was directly in touch with the Holocaust Speakers Bureau, I added original documents about their resources to the JMM archives. This coincidence speaks to the continuing relevance of the archives for Jewish life in Baltimore. The archives include resources with enduring meaning beyond the realm of academia. Other “modern” documents I added in the past few weeks include Rosh Hashana greeting cards – yet another surprising find in the library closed stacks! Although some of the collections I processed are more mundane than others, just by sheer exposure to this variety of documents I have learned so much about Jewish life in Baltimore. Once again, I look forward to the next collection!

After my last blog post, my classmates at UMBC pleasantly surprised me by mentioning that they follow the Jewish Museum of Maryland on social media. Please continue following the JMM on Twitter and Facebook!

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Intern JenA blog post by Collections Intern Jen Wachtel. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.

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A Look Back: the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Levindale Fall ‘76

Posted on October 25th, 2013 by

For my first project as an intern with the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I have been processing the Ladies Auxiliary of Levindale collection. In working with this collection I have learned a lot about the history of the Levindale Ladies Auxiliary and its members. Some of the most interesting pieces that I have gotten to work with are the issues of the Levindale Light which were released seasonally. Since it is fall, I thought I would take a look back at what the Ladies’ Auxiliary was doing this time of year in 1976.

Levindale Light- Fall 1976 Issue

Levindale Light- Fall 1976 Issue

In the Fall of 1976, Carole Fradkin had just completed her first year of being the President of the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Within that year the auxiliary had achieved several goals including the move of the Volunteer Gift Shop from the Kahn Levy Building into the Goldenberg Building off the main lobby and the necessary installment of sixty air conditioners for the bedrooms of all the residents. This achievement led to new goals for membership and future programs.

Carole Fradkin, President of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Levindale in 1976

Carole Fradkin, President of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Levindale in 1976

With the membership drive taking place, this issue highlighted the “Mother & Daughter Teams” of the Ladies’ Auxiliary. One of those mother daughter teams was the Fradkin family who were a third generation volunteer family. While Carole Fradkin was the president, her mother in law Mrs. I. A. Fradkin was in charge of keeping track of volunteers’ hours, and her daughter was close behind working as a Junior volunteer for several years.  Family was an important aspect of the Auxiliary as the issue states “Throughout the almost 50 years of the Auxiliary’s existence, our volunteers have developed a warm feeling towards the residents- which has generated among members of the volunteer families” (6). In reading through this particular issue and looking at the photographs from the collection, I can definitely say that the Ladies Auxiliary promoted a strong sense of community and family through their volunteer efforts and programs.

Two other mother-daughter teams are photographed volunteering and spending time with Mr. Bain. The mother-daughter teams from left to right are Gail Feinberg, Mrs. Henry Lesser, Jackie Lesser, and Mrs. Gilbert Feinberg.

Two other mother-daughter teams are photographed volunteering and spending time with Mr. Bain. The mother-daughter teams from left to right are Gail Feinberg, Mrs. Henry Lesser, Jackie Lesser, and Mrs. Gilbert Feinberg.

A blog post by Fall Collections Intern Meg Davis. To read additional blog posts by JMM interns, click here.

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To Work in a Museum…

Posted on July 24th, 2013 by

Kathleen MorrisonA blog post by Archives Intern Kathleen Morrison. Kathleen works under the supervision of Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read additional posts by Kathleen and other interns, click here.

My internship will be over in less than a month from now, having gone by pretty quickly, at least to me. As the end of this experience nears, I realize how much time and labor goes into running a good museum. Behind the scenes are thousands of papers, photos, and objects, the majority of which have been cataloged and sorted and put away in one of our collection rooms. A lot of the things I’ve seen were done by staff and former interns, but there’s a fair share of volunteer efforts down here in collections.

Currently, I’m working on transcribing an oral history from the late Doctor Arnall Patz, one of several where he was interviewed for the museum. It was recorded by a volunteer. This museum, with its small size and budget compared to institutions like Johns Hopkins and the Smithsonian collections, does its best with the help of all the volunteers. The staff are lovely and work hard, but there is always more work than there are people. It’s so nice to go look for something and then see that a former intern cataloged it carefully and correctly, or that a volunteer went through the boxes and moved things around (with direction!) to create a little more shelf space for us to accept artifacts from people.

When I was younger, I thought I could do most any job as long as it wasn’t repetitive and boring. But working in a small museum has shown me what a labor of love it is. None of the staff would be here if they were not passionate about Jewish history in Maryland, or about working in a museum. You feel kind of proud when you put something away to be saved for future generations. Even though I’m not Jewish, I am a Marylander and it’s a good feeling when I come across things I didn’t know about this state and its people as I work. History is far more close and personal than some people, myself included, realize. To work in a museum is to help make sure we never lose that connection to people who lived before us, who did the hard work to give us the world we have now.

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