Feminism in the Jewish Community: A Podcast

Posted on August 22nd, 2018 by

This summer we asked our summer interns to team up and create their very own podcast episodes. Over the course of ten weeks they needed to pitch a concept, draft a script, and record and edit their podcasts. Here is the second of two podcasts from this summer’s interns! You can see all intern-created podcasts, past and present, by clicking on the intern podcast tag.

Feminism in the Jewish Community: A Podcast was written, recorded, and edited by JMM summer interns Ash Turner, Cara Bennet, and Alexia M. Orengo Green. You can read other posts by JMM interns here or click each intern’s name for their individual posts!

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Intern Weekly Response: Reflections

Posted on August 9th, 2018 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to reflect on their internships as a whole. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

From intern Marisa

By the time this reflection is completed and published, the Jewish Museum of Maryland, in conjunction with the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Maryland State Department of Education, will have concluded its 13th annual Summer Teachers Institute. The Summer Teachers Institute strives to provide teachers with the best practices in Holocaust education; it has been an extremely powerful, timely, and poignant workshop so far, with profound discussion and thoughtful questions.

My favorite artifacts in the entire museum are the three Torah scrolls in the ark of the Lloyd Street Synagogue; all three are survivors of the Holocaust.

The conclusion of the Summer Teachers Institute also, however, signals that my internship at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is rapidly, and unfortunately, coming to a close. I’d like to take a few moments to just look back on some of the things that have made this internship so special and unforgettable:

The Sneak Peek
As you might remember, I actually did not earn a degree in museum studies, or exhibit design, or museum management; I studied English, the American Civil War, and Education. This internship has peeled back the curtain on museums and really showed me and allowed me to experience first-hand the inner workings of what it takes to run one of my favorite kinds of cultural institutions.

The Balance
The balance I am referring to is between individual and collaborative work. It is important that employees have the opportunity to produce and shape their own ideas because their creativity could be lost in the fold otherwise. Yet, it is also important to work collaboratively, in which feedback and constructive criticism helps enrich and perfect the product. We strike this balance often in the Education and Programs departments. For instance, I have been working on a self-guided activity book for families to do while exploring the Lloyd Street Synagogue; I created the original activities, but then I received essential feedback from those both inside and outside of the department, that helped identify necessary improvements. This balance helps both produce and polish the programs and experiences we provide our visitors.

The Community
Last, but most importantly is the community. I have had the distinct pleasure and honor to work with incredibly dedicated, passionate, and supportive staff members and volunteers that provided both a space for me to contribute but also a space for me to learn and grow. Working directly with our diverse visitor base illustrated the direct impact of our shared work and vision.

Here I am outside of the National Museum of Natural History with my “flat pal.” Each intern had a flat pal to take pictures with while on our trip to D.C. a few weeks ago; I named mine Harvey.

I am so thankful to have worked on a variety of projects including the Vanishing Elephant, the Summer Teachers Institute, and programming for the Jewish Refugees and Shanghai exhibit; I am so proud to have worked with the Jewish Museum of Maryland this summer!

An Intern’s Reflection
from intern Ash

Our internship is coming to an end. Ten weeks sounded like a lot of time when we first started, but the last month really flew by quickly. As the days go by, I keep thinking about how much left I want to do, but there just isn’t enough time.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, the project that I have been working on is doing research for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and their upcoming centennial. The project is large, and I’ve been working on small pieces, bit by bit, throughout my internship.  I’ve looked through scrapbooks and newspaper clippings, searching for information about the women of The Associated as well as what campaigns The Associated held to help immigrants during the Holocaust. I’ve edited photos and designed layouts for some of the research topics. I’ve read books and processed scrapbooks. Overall, I’ve explored an array of different ways of researching and documenting information. And throughout all of this, I’ve learned a lot about the Jewish history of Baltimore. There is still a lot of research to be done for this project, but I feel like I’ve gotten to learn a lot about Baltimore history, so I’m proud of what I was able to find.

What my workspace looked like when I was organizing articles about The Associated.

It’s hard to choose a favorite part of the internship, because I had a lot of favorite individual moments and experiences. One of my favorite parts of my research was finding old advertisements or illustrations (and if you want to know more about the illustrations I’ve found, you can find my blog post about them here). I was inspired by a lot of the stories I read and art I saw throughout my research. I also loved processing different scrapbooks and learning about history through a single person’s story, which I also wrote a blog post about, found here. However, my favorite experiences by far were all the field trips we took to museums in the Maryland area. I saw so many ways of conveying history and culture, and experimental approaches that museums were taking when creating their “exhibits.” The Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture showed us what it was like to reimagine a historical museum, and what place a museum can have within a community. They told us about the interactive ways that Baltimoreans told their stories at The Peale, through immersive plays and props, art exhibits, and more. The National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center showed us what it was like to redesign a traditionally private facility into a public museum. There were at least five other museums we visited, but there isn’t enough room to talk about them all.

Illustrations on promotional cards I found through my research on the 1949 Women’s Division of The Associated.

Overall, in this internship I was able to get a taste of what it was like to work in a museum. I got to see the wide range of approaches one can take to museum work, and the different aspects to consider when working at a museum: ethics, accessibility, project management, program planning, and more. Because I was able to work on so many different projects, I also got a feel for what type of work I felt most excited doing. I reaffirmed that I really enjoy the impact of education and storytelling, and how art and interactivity can engage and teach. I’m hoping that I can continue to combine these things in my future jobs and use some of the inspiration I gained in my future artwork as well.

Me at my last week of the internship, helping Alexia with some conservational glueing of ceramic pot shards!

I’m glad that I was able to experience all that the JMM had to offer this summer, and now I’m excited to bring what I learned into the work I do going forward!

My Internship Experience
from intern Alexia

Wao! I can’t believe that it was ten weeks ago when I began my internship at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Time has flown by quick! My experience at the JMM has been incredible. The different experiences that I had before coming to the JMM allowed me to participate in numerous projects in which I was able to improve and learn even more. While at my internship I was able to learn first hand from professionals on the field and see the different facets museums have. I was able to discover the magic that small museums have, which is that when you work in one you can participate in many projects and everyone works as part of the team. This magic is what makes the JMM great. The incredible staff works together with a high-level of professionalism and the goal to bring new exhibits and make the experience of its visitors the best that it can be.

Intern group picture at the Inescapable: The Life & Legacy of Harry Houdini opening.

As the Historical Preservation and Research Intern, throughout the past ten weeks I have been able to work closely with the Director of Collections and Exhibits, Joanna Church, and the Archivist, Lorie Rombo. Under their supervision I was able to work in many projects that include working with translations, archaeological artifacts, developing a catalog for documents for the Lloyd Street Synagogue, and update and reorganized a catalog of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. During my last week at week at the Museum, I’ve begun new projects too! I’m currently researching information for an upcoming small archaeology exhibit and photographing the artifacts that may be exhibited. This week I’ve also been working on reconstructing a pot from the Lloyd Street Synagogue. From all the projects that I’ve work on during the internship, this is one of top favorite ones.  Each project that I worked with Joanna and Lorie was fun, engaging, and interesting. I was able to apply my knowledge while learning new things about a field that I hope to formally join one day.

Reconstructing a pot from the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

From my time in the JMM two of my favorite moments were creating the podcast Untangling and Tangling Feminism & Judaism and the instructional video of how to use the Vanishing Elephant trick of Inescapable: The Life & Legacy of Harry Houdini. Creating the podcast with Ash and Cara was a fun process. From brainstorming ideas, to writing it, and finally recording it, the process was amusing. It was nice to see how all our ideas came together to create a project the three of us are extremely proud of. My favorite part of the process was recording the podcast. While recoding we laughed and made sure to be ourselves.

Editing video of Jennie the Elephant.

At the same time, creating the video for Inescapable was an incredible experience. We filmed the video at the exhibit and demonstrated how to disappear Jennie the Elephant. For the demonstration Ellie was the magician, Marisa oversaw audio, Ash filmed, Cara and I held the script, and at the end of the video I was the magician’s assistant. While filming we had a really good time, and we finished filming quick, which came as a surprise for everyone. After filming the video, I edited it. To edit the video, I used iMovie and was able to put the video together and add fun transitions to the different parts. Because we wanted to be inclusive to our audience, we included on the video captions that I was able to add thanks to Ellie and Marisa’s transcription. The entire experience from start to finish was enjoyable and when we finished the video we were all proud that all our hard work came through.

Intern group picture in Washington DC.

Before I began my internship at the JMM I didn’t know that I was going to participate in as many projects as I did. Having done as many projects as I did during the summer, showed me that I was good at what I like and that there is always new things to learn. During my time in the JMM I felt that my voice and input was important and encouraged. I was also able to meet a remarkable group of professionals who shared their expertise constantly. My experience at the JMM has been undoubtedly incredible and it has been an honor being an intern this summer.

“It’s not goodbye, but see you later”
From intern Cara

Hanging out with these awesome ladies and this cool mastodon puppet at the Peale Center.

Reading my fellow interns’ reflections on their experiences this summer has made me feel prematurely nostalgic about my own internship experience. While the other interns will be leaving me at the end of the week, I’ll be extending my internship through the end of the month to finish up some of the projects I’ve been working on.

I’m so excited to be continuing my internship but I’m really going to miss spending time with and learning from these smart, funny, awesome ladies! We’ve made so many great memories together this summer from field trips to workshops to podcast recordings to parking adventures in downtown Baltimore. They even made the less glamorous side of museum work like cleaning vitrines and moving boxes (and that dang pew) fun.

Artsy flat pal photo shoot during our field trip to the National Gallery.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Intern Weekly Response: DC Field Trip

Posted on August 2nd, 2018 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to share about their recent field trip experience to the National Mall in Washington, DC. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

Turning Up the Volume on Indigenous Voices

~Intern Marisa

I’ve already written a little bit about our trip to DC in my blog post last week in which I discuss the Dragons in Art tour we took at the National Gallery of Art and the value of an interdisciplinary approach to programming.

Today though, I’d like to talk about what I saw at the National Museum of Natural History that I thought was really well done: how the museum gave a platform for indigenous voices. I saw this in two of their exhibits: Narwhals: Revealing an Arctic Legend and Objects of Wonder

In the Narwhals exhibit, the National Museum of Natural History did a couple of different things to help highlight Inuit voices. First, they took an interdisciplinary approach to the exhibit, and displayed Inuit art and described legends that depict the cultural importance of the Narwhal.

This image shows Germaine Arnaktauyok’s illustration entitled A Woman Who Became a Narwhal based on an Inuit legend from their oral tradition, that tells of a wicked mother who was transformed into a Narwhal.

Second, they explored the fascinating relationship between Inuit cultural knowledge and science, and how it is Inuit cultural knowledge that informs science, rather than the other way around. For instance, it has been culturally known, through experiences and stories passed down in the Inuit communities, that the narwhal’s tooth [which looks like a horn] can actually bend. The scientific community then put this to the test and confirmed this piece of cultural knowledge. The museum made sure time and time again in that exhibit to validate and display how Inuit cultural knowledge has helped science learn more about narwhals. Third, and most importantly, is that the museum worked directly with the Inuit communities in the creation of the exhibit. They had interviews and videos, art and stories, some of which was done for the express purpose of this exhibit; this allows the Inuit communities to shape their own narrative and share it with a larger audience who may not have heard their voices otherwise.

So, the Narwhals exhibit is a fantastic example of how to work with indigenous communities whose culture and technology are still intact and preserved, but how can the museum help communities that have lost that, for any number of reasons? In the exhibit, Objects of Wonder, the museum shows us one of the coolest collaborations. I should say first that the Objects of Wonder is a sort of exhibit of smaller exhibits, with an overarching goal of teaching visitors about the museum’s vast collection and how those items ended up at the museum. One of these small exhibits within the exhibit was on the fishing ring net weights of the Wanapum Band of Priest Rapids.

This photo shows a Wanapum Band fishing ring net weight on display at the National Museum of Natural History in D.C. This smaller exhibit inside Objects of Wonder gives an example of how cultural institutions can work with communities to help preserve and support their culture.

The community had lost this technology due to the creation of a United States government plutonium facility that “forc[ed] the Wanapum to relocate.” In 2015, members of this community traveled to the museum to study one of the only remaining examples of this technology with the goal of reverse engineering it and bringing this traditional practice back to their community. The collaboration between the Wanapum and the museum, which was discussed thoroughly in the display, not only highlights the plight of forced relocation of Native American populations, but also how cultural institutions can work with these communities to preserve and support their culture.

With these two exhibits, the Natural History Museum has given an opportunity for indigenous people to share their stories and have their voices heard and is setting the bar for how to do this in a respectful and engaging way.


IPOP and the Power of Interdisciplinary Exhibits

~Intern Cara

Gallery view of “Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend”

As someone coming from a humanities background, natural history and science museums have typically felt inaccessible to me. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History ‘s exhibit, Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend, changed that for me. I feel like this exhibit has flipped the script on what a natural history exhibit can be and achieve. This exhibit could have very easily just focused on the anatomy and behavior of narwhals but instead took a more engaging interdisciplinary approach. The exhibit touches on all aspects of Narwhals from their relation to their environment, climate change, the role of narwhals in native cultures, narwhals in pop culture to the history and mythology of narwhals and other horned creatures.

This text panel takes a look at the origins of one-horned creatures around the world, effectively engaging visitors who may be more interested in art and literature than science.

I think this interdisciplinary approach is particularly powerful way of engaging visitors. In my museum studies courses we’ve discussed the Smithsonian’s IPOP model of visitor engagement. The model “identifies four key dimensions of experience – Ideas (conceptual, abstract thinking), People (emotional connections), Objects (visual language and aesthetics), and Physical experiences (somatic sensations). The model maintains that individuals are drawn to these four dimensions to different degrees.” Just as visitors are drawn to certain dimensions of experience (personally I find myself more drawn to objects and physical experiences), people are drawn towards certain disciplines based on their interests. Interdisciplinary exhibits like the Smithsonian’s narwhal exhibit successfully keep visitors engaged by combatting the monotony of single discipline exhibits and allowing visitors to follow their interests.

Do we see all the artifacts a museum has?

~Intern Alexia

 Many museums have a permanent exhibit, meaning that every time you go visit it you are going to see the same artifacts or paintings. Sometimes these exhibits are slightly modified by changing a small quantity of the items. But, those that exhibit composes the entire collection the museum has? The answer to this question is often no. Big collections for many museums are a problem because of storage, conservation, and deciding what to showcase to the public. Museums acquire artifacts for their collections from donations, loans, and by buying them. Because of the large collection the museum may have, many of these artifacts the viewer never gets to see them.

The topic of large collections and everything they entitle came to my mind while visiting the exhibit of Objects of Wonder in The National Museum of Natural History. This exhibit, which is located on the second floor of the museum encompasses a wide range of artifacts from different subjects such as migration, paleontology, and geology. Some artifacts from the exhibit include mammoth meat, butterflies, ceramics, fossils, and a Japanese samurai armor.  But Objects of Wonders does more than just showcasing part of the large collection the Smithsonian has, it gives the audience a perspective they often do not get a chance to see.

Japanese samurai armor gifted to President Roosevelt by Emperor of Japan. Photo by Marisa Shultz

When most people go to an exhibit they do not think how the artifacts that are shown got to the museum, why the curator chose them, or how do researchers or scientists use and study those artifacts. Objects of Wonder breaks that barrier between the museum and the visitor. Through the exhibit the visitor can read comments from the curator regarding how specific items joined museum’s collection. The visitor can also see how researchers use the different collections for their investigations.

Calcite on quartz (amethyst)

The idea of creating an exhibit that encompasses a large range of topics to give the audience an overall idea of the collection a museum has is brilliant. By also having the curators notes throughout the exhibit the visitor has an inside of how they make an exhibit and their train of thought. The Natural History Museum was successful in creating an exhibit that flows well and tells the story of artifacts that do not necessarily have things in common.

Light and Sound: Immersion at the Smithsonian

~Intern Ash

When an interactive activity lights up, it draws us in. When we walk into a room with a different soundscape, the mood of the room changes. When light is shone on a specific area, it grabs our attention and sharpens our focus.

Light and sound are important aspects to consider when designing an immersive environment for visitors. After visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on an intern field trip a couple of weeks ago, I was captivated with the sound and light design in its exhibits. So, I wanted to talk about a few of the ways they used light and sound to immerse their visitors in their exhibits and environments.

First, we headed to the Narwhal: Revealing An Arctic Legend exhibit. When we walked into this exhibit, seemingly abstract sounds filled the room. The best way to describe the soundscape was that it was like an interpretation of a mystical winter—slow creaking and shimmering notes, some haunting and deep, and others high-pitched and chattering. I was immediately enthralled with the sounds and was curious as to what they were. A panel in the exhibit described that they were “above-water sounds of Arctic birds and wind, and below-water sounds of narwhals vocalizing and ice moving and creaking.” The magical nature of these sounds fit well with the “mythical” legends that surround the Narwhal.

At the front of the Narwhal exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Along with the sound design, the lighting was sparse and kept to an ice and deep-water theme. Most of the lighting was a light, frosty blue, especially near the entrance. Around a hanging replica of a narwhal in the middle of the exhibit, there was shimmering blue light projected on the floor, mimicking how light shines through water. The walls and ceiling were painted black, absorbing the extra light and making the whole environment feel deep and mysterious, as if we were underwater. Overall, the sound and lighting design created the feeling of winter and the underwater deep as we walked throughout this exhibit.

Other than the Narwhal exhibit, there were a few other moments that I enjoyed throughout the museum because of their use of light and sound. In the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, there was a “cave” environment that had recreations of early human cave paintings. The lighting was dim and warm in this area, making the cave feel as if it was naturally and sparsely lit up. Low and haunting tones filled the space, and with the reading of a panel, I found out that the sounds were from playing a whistle artifact that was on display. This area and its haunting “music” created a sense of going back in time. It made me feel connected to early humans (my ancestors, of sorts) and their symbols.

Interactive about counterillumination in the Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian. Panel states, “Look in and pretend you are a big fish looking up for a little fish to eat. Press the button and hold to see how the little fish uses its lights to hide.”

There were a lot of other areas of the museum where I enjoyed the lighting and sounds—a section on iridescent blues in the Objects of Wonder exhibit, an interactive about how fish use counterillumination to hide… But, seeing as how the museum has so many nooks and crannies, I don’t have the time to talk about them all. Overall, though, I can say that the parts of the museum that stuck with me the most were where these lights and sounds were used just right to transport me into a different world or time. In this way, the Smithsonian uses light and sound to its fullest. It combines them in the most captivating ways, forming enchanting environments and immersive spaces for visitors to explore.


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