Posted on November 7th, 2013 by Rachel
If you are too young to know about Breck shampoo—or if you just want to reminisce about 1970s hair products—check out this Youtube video.
Incorporating original objects from the JMM permanent collection in exhibitions—especially traveling exhibitions—is an important way to bring the focus to Jewish life in Maryland. This was particularly true with Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. Maryland was truly a boarder state during the Civil War and Jews were as divided as other groups when choosing sides. While I knew about his role on the pulpit in Baltimore, I was surprised to learn that Rabbi Benjamin Szold was asked to intercede on behalf of Private George Kuhn, a young Jewish Union deserter. Although Szold was unsuccessful, he remained with the young man until he was executed.
You can see an original copy of this Harper’s Weekly depicting the aforementioned execution in the Passages through Fire exhibition.
In addition to the trunk that Szold used when he emigrated from Breslau, the Museum also owns the black velvet hat he wore at about the time he was recruited by Temple Oheb Shalom in 1859. This artifact was perfect for the The Minhag America section of the exhibition, explaining the diverse practices in each Jewish community at the start of the Civil War.
1998.115.2 A portrait of Rabbi Benjamin Szold
Unfortunately, the hat was in poor condition and could not be exhibited without conservation. As evidenced in the photo below, the velvet was completely split, and falling off the hat to expose a yellow/brown padding structure beneath, which too had tears, soiling, and damage. In addition to holes, the shape of the hat was distorted and crushed, and there was a considerable amount of dust accumulated across the surface!
Demonstrating that the black velvet is literally being held on by a thread.
It looks like a toupee!
Conservation work can be time consuming and expensive—which is why the JMM only conserves select items, usually in conjunction with an exhibition. The American Institution of Conservation website was helpful in identifying specialized conservators by location. After we approved her treatment proposal, textile conservator Julia Brennan worked on Rabbi Szold’s hat. In her treatment report Julia explained the process of her work:
· The hat was humidified over several days in an enclosed chamber to slowly introduce moisture into the fabric. This made the hat more malleable, and throughout the humidification process it was gradually manipulated from its collapsed shape to its original shape. As the hat softened, it was gently filled out with tissue to hold the shape.
· The hat really took its original shape and the velvet is much more relaxed and supple.
· Large, split areas of the hat were lined with black cotton for stability. The split edges were then re-aligned and hand sewn to the black cotton with hand stitching, using a color-matched Skala thread. It was necessary to have the supports, as the velvet edges are too brittle to attach to each other.
Left, a split, broken area lined with black cotton. Right, the area stitched back into place. A small seam of the cotton is visible.
· In a large area where the velvet was missing entirely, a new piece of carefully matched black velvet was inserted and stitched into place with hand stitching. This fills the hole, and makes the hat more complete and attractive.
Left, a large hole in the hat. Right, the hole with new black velvet inserted to mask the hole.
Our biggest concern with the Szold hat was whether it would be stable enough for exhibition after treatment. In addition to conserving the hat, Julia built a custom support to keep it in its original, stable shape. The support consists of four parts:
1. A “donut” made of cotton stockinette and batting, exactly fitting the main body of the hat. This will prevent the velvet from the stress of collapsing, which contributed to the original splits.
2. A small, dome shaped piece made of ethafoam and batting, covered in a non-abrasive black stretch fabric. This supports the center of the body of the hat, which the donut does not support.
3. A flat disc made of ethafoam, batting, and black stretch fabric fit to the exact dimensions of the hat brim. This keeps the brim straight, preventing further wrinkling and making current wrinkling less obvious.
4. A second, taller disc for the entire supported hat to sit on, also made of ethafoam, batting, and covered in a cream colored stretch fabric. This elevates the hat when its other support pieces are in place so the brim does not touch the resting surface. It can also be used for display purposes. Or not.
Right Side Up
The hat has undergone a complete transformation! It is no longer limp and torn. It’s gone from Flat to Fluffy.
In the “Results and Recommendations” section of her report Julia cautions that the velvet is still extremely brittle, an irreversible problem. Some small splits remain in the velvet because the repair process is so stressful to the fabric that repairing them would cause more harm than good. The hat must be handled with extreme delicacy and caution, or more splits will occur, and current splits may get larger. The hat should be kept in a carefully monitored environment with low light. Cleaning should only be done by a conservation professional due to the delicacy of the fabric.
I got this travel sized Breck shampoo when I stayed at the Channel Inn in DC for the MAAM conference in October. It really makes your hair fluffy! Just don’t use it on historic artifacts.
Rabbi Szold’s hat is on view in the Passages through the Fire exhibition on view now at the JMM. Funding for this important project was made possible by the Associated.
A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Jobi click here.
Posted on October 31st, 2013 by Rachel
Photograph collections are an incredibly valuable tool for researchers. The photographs range from professional photos to snapshots taken by amateurs, sometimes with heads cut off. Sometimes the reasons why the photo was taken or who owned it is just as important as the photo’s subject. During my time at JMM, I have had the opportunity to handle a lot of interesting photos that tell a side of history that regular print media doesn’t always capture.
Fabian Kolker, 2001.013.023
Earlier this year, I processed an archive and photograph collection donated by the estate of Fabian Kolker. Kolker was a human rights activist from Baltimore who worked on behalf of Jews in the Soviet Union. Much of Kolker’s effort was directed at convincing the Soviet Union to release refuseniks. Refuseniks were Soviet citizens who applied for exit visas but were denied. Many individuals, after being denied, lost their jobs or were imprisoned. Most refuseniks were Jews, who wanted to leave because of widespread anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.
Valery and Galina Panov, 2001.013.075
One famous refusenik was Valery Panov, a lead dancer with the Kirov Ballet. After applying for an exit visa to Israel in 1972 and being denied, he was dismissed from his position at the ballet company and briefly imprisoned. After a great deal of international protest, Panov and his wife, Galina, were allowed to leave for Israel. Within the Kolker photograph collection is a photo of Valery and Galina dancing together. I love this photo for the high contrast that creates drama, but most especially for the beauty and grace of the dancers. Since this photo came from Kolker’s personal collection, we can guess that Kolker was interested in the Panovs as more than part of a political cause, but as artists and people who were being terribly mistreated by their country.
Fabian Kolker visiting Ida Nudel in Odessa, Ukraine, 2001.013.234
Kolker visited the Soviet Union several times. During a visit to Odessa, Ukraine, Kolker met with refusenik Ida Nudel, only a few months before Nudel was granted an exit visa to Israel. The collection has several photos from this visit. Most obviously, to me, these photos show Kolker taking the effort to get to visit the people he advocated for. These photos also give us a glimpse of what life was like in the Soviet Union. We see the interior of a home (take a look at that wallpaper!), how the people are dressed, and how they interact with one another.
Working with the Fabian Kolker collection has really pressed upon me the importance of preserving historical documents. These photos would be difficult to find outside the JMM collection, if they exist at all. Pairing these photos with the archive collection puts them in a context that says a lot more about who Fabian Kolker was and what he accomplished.
A blog post by Collections Volunteer Dana Willan. To read more collections related posts, click here.
Posted on October 31st, 2013 by Rachel
Enjoy these spooky images from our collections!
Bureau of Recreation’s Halloween Winners, taken at the Latrobe House on October 31, 1956. Jacob Fisher is presenting the awards to the winners.
Rose Kornblatt with students dressed in Halloween costumes. Don’t you just love those little skeletons?
Halloween 1920 – 1732 E. Baltimore Street, the “Autrie” Club.
A National Council of Jewish Women member helps out at a Halloween party at Sinai Hospital.
National Council of Jewish Women members help with pumpkin carving at a Halloween party at Sinai Hospital, 1970.
Staff behind the counter get into the Halloween spirit at Caplan’s Delly, c. 1988!