Posted on January 27th, 2014 by Rachel
This summer the JMM will host a unique visitor experience designed to appeal to budding engineers, artists, scientists, DIY-ers and anyone curious to learn about technological innovation and its connections to Jewish life. Our Feldman Gallery will be transformed into a participatory lab-style environment where visitors can discover the mystery behind scientific principles such as magnetism, electricity, solar power, and more through fun and engaging interactive activities. The gallery will serve as a community festival space where people can come to experiment, create, and learn from one another.
Photo Credit Flikr, Creative Commons, sDuchamp
As part of our planning for this event, this week several members of staff joined collections manager Jobi Zink for a tour of our collections to see what we might be able to display in the gallery relating to the theme of technology and innovation. To my surprise, there was a plethora of artifacts for consideration to showcase the kinds of things that while are considered obsolete today, were formerly at the forefront of technological innovation. Consider for example the sewing machine that revolutionized clothing manufacturing and is also an item associated with Jewish immigrants many of whom found employment in Baltimore’s clothing factories in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Here is a sewing machine that was displayed in Hello Gorgeous! Staff often jokes that at the JMM we rarely have an exhibit that does not include a sewing machine or trunk.
While today’s electric sewing machine looks different from the foot powered ones in our collections, the basic concept has not really changed all that much. That is certainly not true of other objects in our collection such as the typewriter or phonograph.
This typewriter has Hebrew characters.
We look forward to playing games with some of our younger guests to the exhibit to see if they can figure out what these ancient objects were once used for!
During our tour of the collections, we came upon my all time favorite object.
Deborah’s favorite object.
Can you guess what this is? No, this is not a medieval torture instrument or a relic from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. This was a hair styling implement used in Sonya’s Beauty Salon in the 1930s so that women could transform their straight hair into the more fashionable permanent wave style. Funny how hair style trends come and go and new gadgets are constantly being invented so women can keep up with the latest. (Perhaps I should hold onto my 13 year old daughter’s collection of flat irons used to flatten every trace of curl in her hair for a future exhibit!)
And lest you think we only collect women’s beauty implements, here is another hair styling implement used to clip men’s hair in Kramer’s Barber Shop on Bond Street.
In displaying objects such as these, we plan on illustrating the impact of invention on everyday Jewish life and help visitors make connections between the tools that changed the lives of our parents and grandparents and the high-tech gadgets that fill our lives today. We hope you will join us this summer – the Electrified Pickle runs from July 13-August 10.
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah, click HERE.
Posted on January 20th, 2014 by Rachel
An ironstone plate with a maker’s mark on the base.
Despite what we see in museum exhibits, it’s not often that whole, unbroken artifacts are found during archaeological excavations. Most of what an archaeologist might uncover during an excavation of an urban site are small, broken pieces of artifacts like glass and ceramic vessels. These pieces are referred to as “sherds.” The archaeological collection from the 1996 JMM expansion has bags and bags of glass and ceramic sherds, and it fell to Carlyn and me to try to see if we could piece them together into complete artifacts!
Intern Molly works to mend glass oil lamp chimneys.
When sherds have traces of decoration, like painted decoration on ceramics or embossed words on glass bottles, it can be very easy to find matching pieces and “mend” them. It’s also easy to find matching pieces of distinctive artifacts, such as a cup made from an unusual color of glass or a very large ceramic pot. But sometimes it can be much more difficult – one group of artifacts that we dealt with was several bags of small, nondescript clear glass sherds. We were able to tell based on how thin the glass was and the curve of the larger pieces that these sherds came from glass oil lamp chimneys, but even with that knowledge, it was very hard to piece together the sherds!
Intern Carlyn admires a mended stoneware pot.
We were only mending artifacts so that we could keep records of what pieces go together in the collection, so we used tape to hold pieces together or folded paper and other creative solutions to temporarily rebuild artifacts. When artifacts are mended permanently, special glues and other archival means are used to mend broken pieces of an artifact to create the attractive complete artifacts seen on display in museums.
A “mended” 19th century men’s vest with pockets.
We also had to work to “mend” some artifacts that were not glass or ceramic, such as a cloth vest or pieces of shoes. At times, mending can be frustrating work, but it’s a lot like doing a very interesting puzzle, and the results when you can piece things together are really amazing!
An ironstone chamberpot with decorative molded handles.
A blog post by Collections Interns Carlyn Thomas and Molly Greenhouse. To read more posts from JMM interns, click here.
Posted on January 6th, 2014 by Rachel
Edie Shlian has been volunteering in the genealogy department at the JMM since summer 2013. She was interested in researching her own family history and once she learned that we no longer had staff on hand to assist with her pursuit, she determined it was something she could help others with. She is a member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland and is hoping to bring some co-members in as volunteers as well. In her position, she takes requests from people who are interested in finding out more information about their families – the history of their family in Baltimore. She was surprised that people think we would know everything about family histories, when basically we cover Baltimore Jewish history records.
Before she began volunteering, she was a registered nurse. She began in medical-surgical nursing then switched to cardiology. She worked as a critical care nurse at Union Memorial Hospital, in the cardiac catheterization lab at Sinai Hospital, and in cardiac research at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She became interested in nursing as a result of her father passing away at a young age, due to heart disease. Edie is the mother of three children and grandmother of six. Her youngest daughter and two of her grandchildren live in Seattle, her other daughter, son and grandchildren live in the Baltimore area. She loves to travel, some of her favorite destinations have been Israel, Greece, the Caribbean Islands and across the United States. She’s now at a point where she enjoys returning to a destination, rent an apartment, and live amongst the locals. She has plans in the next year to do this in Florence and Venice.
She sees helping preserve family history as an important mission and looks forward to continuing to do so while at the JMM.
A blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday of every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.