Posted on September 29th, 2014 by Rachel
Greetings, blog readers! My name is Joanna Church, and I’m the new Collections Manager at the JMM. There’s something a little nerve-wracking about starting a new job; before starting here, I wondered: What will the office be like? How tricky is the commute? Will the new colleagues be pleasant? And is there a coffee maker?* For those of us who work with museum collections, however, there’s one almost-guarantee when joining the staff of a new museum: The collections themselves – no matter what they actually are – will be interesting. In my few weeks here at the JMM, this has definitely proved to be true.
I am a Maryland native, but new to Baltimore. Searching our database for something first-blog-post-appropriate, I found a foam hat that says “Welcome to Baltimore.” Thank you, hat!
1992.190.001, front view
This old-fashioned hat, with a four inch high crown, was made around 1990, mimicking the style of a circa 1900s boater (right down to the ‘woven straw’ look to the molded foam). The printed paper ‘ribbon’ around the crown reads in full, “Welcome to Baltimore UAHC NFTS ’91.” The donor, E.B. Hirsh, was one of thousands of delegates to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations/National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods biennial convention, held in Baltimore from October 31st to November 5th, 1991.
1992.190.001, side view
According to the Baltimore Sun there were plenty of important issues discussed at this meeting of representatives from over 850 Reform synagogues. Nevertheless, what’s a convention without a party? Our hat and its welcoming message have an opening-day-festivities vibe, suggesting that there were opportunities for fun amidst the more serious activities. (If any readers attended the conference and can share some info, please do!)
As for the type of hat itself, straw boaters or “skimmers” were popular summer headwear for men and women in the late 19th – early 20th centuries. Here are a few Baltimore residents sporting the style in 1924:
Abe Sherman, his father Moses, and two unidentified men at Abe Sherman’s newsstand in Battle Monument Square, August 1924. Donated to the JMM by Brig. Gen. Philip Sherman. 1989.021.001
By the 1950s, however, the boater had dwindled from everyday garb to costume, and it is most likely to be seen today on members of a barbershop quartet; actors in a production of, say, “The Music Man;” or attendees at a political rally. Though I can’t tell you exactly why a boater became appropriate convention-wear, it’s enough of a stylistic trope that plastic and Styrofoam hats are marketed specifically for these events. Our example was manufactured in the U.S. by the Lewtan Line, a company founded in 1947 by Marvin Lewtan.
…As you may have guessed by now, things are my thing. I look forward to sharing more of the stories and histories of the JMM’s fabulous artifacts, images, and archival records!
*Answers: Great; not bad so far; absolutely; and (thankfully) yes.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church.
Posted on September 17th, 2014 by Rachel
After many months of hard work developing The A-mazing Mendes Cohen exhibition, JMM staff members were eagerly awaiting its arrival by truck on September 3 from Seattle. What many people might not realize is that exhibits do not arrive fully constructed and that the task of assembling and installing the exhibition structure, text panels and artifacts is complex necessitating the work of a team of individuals. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the Making of The A-mazing Mendes Cohen.
The first moving truck arrived at 9am. Luckily our forklift and driver arrived just in time to help take the crates off the truck.
Exhibition designer and maze builder extraordinaire, Kelly Fernandi of Minotaur Mazes enjoys his ride on the forklift making sure that the crate stays in place.
Our orientation space which serves so many purposes became our temporary storage space for the crates.
Because we are recycling a maze structure from another exhibition (Chimp Adventure that was recently on display at the Kansas City Zoo) not all the parts in the crate are being used for The A-mazing Mendes Cohen. Here, Susan Press, Joanna Church and Darrell Monteagudo unpack and sort crate contents.
Once the parts are unpacked, we begin installation. First task, arrange metal pipes in appropriate spot on the floor around the gallery using this floor plan as our guide.
Where the heck do they all go? (Fortunately, Kelly was checking all my work and rearranging as necessary!)
Once all the floor pipes are arranged, we then got to work attaching them to one another. Everyone got very good at using a hex wrench to tighten connections, a very important step!
The outline of the maze becomes apparent as the floor pipes are connected.
After all the floor pipes were in place we then began attaching vertical poles. You can see Susan Press in the corner making sure all our connections are very tight. This was a great job for Susan!
After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting the ceiling pipes in place, we decided to call it a day.
Despite feeling sore in body parts we didn’t even know existed, installing the roof pipes went much smoother the second day. Do you see the maze starting to come together?
Once we have the metal frame structure in place, it’s time to begin work on the maze panels. Here they are laid out on the lobby floor.
Kelly provides a tutorial in hanging panels. Sadly, he will have to repeat this lesson several times before it really sinks in.
Ilene Dackman-Alon and I start to get the hang of it (pun intended!)
Panel successfully hung!
Program manager, Trillion Attwood, became an expert wielding cable ties. Who knew they made such wonderful hair accessories!
Once the panels are hung, we go back through to make sure that all the screws are tight.
Another long day but the end is almost in site!
The third day was largely devoted to installing artifacts in cases.
Textile conservator Michele Pagan arrived with the flag that Mendes made to hoist up the sail as he traveled on the Nile. Michele has been working for several weeks to fill in the color of the red stripes that have faded and to repair the paper stars that have disintegrated. Here she is gently cleaning the flag before its installation in a special case designed and fabricated by Mark Ward.
Sanchita Balachandran, registrar at Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, arrives with a sampling of the Egyptian artifacts that Mendes collected while in Egypt. She and Joanna worked to unpack and install the objects in their case.
Next up, the fabulous red jacket that Mendes purchased during his travels. Michele Pagan did some conservation work on the jacket as well. To the best of my knowledge, this exhibit will be the first time that the JMM has displayed many of the wonderful treasures in our collection belonging to Mendes.
We left most of the heavy duty installation jobs to Kelly. Here he is installing one of the exhibit’s many interactive, a map where visitors can take a stab at tracing Mendes’ journey.
Feeling much more rested after taking a day off, we spent Sunday working on final details.
Our fantastic lighting designer, Rich Pullman, did a heroic job navigating the maze frame to install our new LED lights. Once the lights were in place the exhibition finally came to life.
Kelly spent much of the day working on exhibit interactive and straightening maze walls and panels.
One final touch, vacuuming!
Now that you know about all the fun we had putting it up, we hope you will join us to see how it all turned out. The A-mazing Mendes Cohen opened on Sunday, September 14 amidst Baltimore’s Star Spangled Spectacular. And while the fireworks may be over, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen and all his adventures are ready for you – look forward to seeing you here!
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click HERE.
Posted on September 9th, 2014 by Rachel
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: February 7, 2014
PastPerfect Accession #: 2006.013.249
Status: Unidentified – can you name anyone in this home economics class, held at the JCC in April, 1973?