Once Upon a Time…10.28.2016

Posted on July 25th, 2017 by

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 by email at jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

JMM 1996.63.53

JMM 1996.63.53

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  October 28, 2016

PastPerfect Accession #:  1996.63.53

Status: Unidentified. A family lights the menorah in this Associated publicity photo, circa 1980 – do you recognize them?

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Hitting the Road

Posted on July 20th, 2017 by

Blog post by Collections Intern Joelle Paull. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? Music, family or friends, scenic views are all part of the quintessential road trip experience. But every good road trip requires planning and packing. So what happens when JMM exhibits travel? This fall, the JMM’s recent exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, will be traveling to the Maltz Museum in Cleveland. The exhibit, which examines the role of Jews in Medicine and its impact on Jewish culture and practices, features everything from surgical instrument and doctor’s coats to pharmaceutical tools and medicine bottles (many of which are still full of remedies and oils.)

The past week the collections department has been preparing the exhibit for travel. What does this entail? First we find the objects that have been put back on their shelves after the exhibit closed in January. Then, condition report, condition report condition report! Each object gets photographed and condition reported so that we can ensure everything comes back the way it left. Lastly, everything gets packed safely into boxes and then the objects in the exhibit are ready to hit the road. Over the course of the week, I have gotten pretty familiar with the objects in the exhibit, some proving harder to inventory and pack than others. Not having seen the exhibit, it has been fun to have the chance to read the catalogue and explore the objects. Here are some of my favorite and some interesting things that have been packed so far!

What did doctors and pharmacists in the early 20th century use to treat a variety of ailments? Every bottle we pulled off the shelf helped answer that question. The bottles, dark blue or brown glass contain things like lactic acid or a variety of oils. There are also jars and tins full of seeds and powders, like the jar of fennel seeds. Fennel has been used to treat stomach issues and is often used as flavoring in medicines. The jar belonged to Dr. Adolph (Ed) Baer who owned and operated Fisher’s Pharmacy in Hagerstown, Md.

Jar of Fennel Seeds (K2014.003.106)

Jar of Fennel Seeds (K2014.003.106)

The exhibit gives us a glimpse of tools and medicine used over decades, but it also shows us what Doctors and Nurses have worn. One of my favorite items in Beyond Chicken Soup is the nurse’s uniform, completed with the bright blue wool cape. The cape was made by Stein Uniform Co. of Baltimore and is lined with gold wool.

Nurse’s Cape (JMM 2009.092.010)

Nurse’s Cape (JMM 2009.092.010)

Although it looks real, the ring featuring a large molar is made out of plastic. Dental student, Edmund Kahn, around 1904 to propose to his girlfriend, Gertrude Fried. He later gave her a real ring and the pair were married in 1907.

“Tooth” Engagement Ring (1991.035.024)

“Tooth” Engagement Ring (1991.035.024)

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Discoveries and Connections at the Museum

Posted on July 19th, 2017 by

A blog post by Exhibitions Intern Jillie Drutz. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

My first day as an intern with the JMM, we learned about PastPerfect, the (kind of crazy cool to be honest) collections software the museum uses, and were instructed to explore and practice the many ways you can use the software to research objects, archives, and people. Exploring the collections–menus from the Suburban House, Kiddush cups, and old photographs from Pikesville–I could not help but feel as if I were rummaging through my own grandparent’s basement. With Jewish grandparents born and raised in Baltimore, I started searching their names in PastPerfect expecting some interesting results. The only thing I found was that I would need to do more genealogical research on my paternal family to yield any results. One name did catch my eye: “Samson Benderly.” I knew the name Benderly because it was my maternal great grandmother’s maiden name. I never considered looking for my mother’s family in the JMM collection because they immigrated to the United States from Israel recently.

Dr. Samson Benderly 1900 (Age 24). JMM 1974.8.2

Dr. Samson Benderly 1900 (Age 24). JMM 1974.8.2

Looking at a photo of a Happy Birthday certificate Samson Benderly wrote to Rabbi Benjamin Szold from the JMM collection, I quickly texted my grandmother, the true matriarch and keeper of all family knowledge, if she knew of a Samson Benderly in the family. She said she had not but our Benderly’s all came from Tzfat in Israel and that might help. Born in Tzfat, Dr. Samson Benderly (1876-1944) was rapidly gaining my interest. Benderly came to Baltimore in 1898 where he became the revolutionary father of American Jewish education. He guided many people who would later go on to become influential institutional leaders. He even knew the powerhouse that was Henrietta Szold, a Zionist leader, and founder of Hadassah.[1] I looked through a family history book compiled for a three day Benderly family reunion held in 1998 and there I found a Shimshon (or Samson) Benderly, who was recorded as coming to the US in 1898 and became involved in education. My family and I were amazed when we read this. It was just really cool! But it also made me realize that even though I am a Jewish Marylander, it was not until I discovered Samson Benderly did I really feel a connection to the JMM. And I was kind of surprised at how closed I had been as a visitor.

Certificate commemorating Rabbi Benjamin Szold’s 70th birthday from Dr. Samson Benderly (1899) JMM 1995.34.1

Certificate commemorating Rabbi Benjamin Szold’s 70th birthday from Dr. Samson Benderly (1899) JMM 1995.34.1

It is so easy to walk in a nicely air conditioned museum exhibit, gawk at the foreign objects in glass cases adorned with didactic plaques, and forget that they tell our stories. And my discovery reminded me this and that the people exhibited (even if we cannot fully understand them) are real. It would take thousands of blog posts to even begin to describe let alone capture how much emotional, cultural, and social value museums provide to people, in terms of learning and understanding. But, unless you work for a museum, personal connection is the one museum experience that we forget about. Learning and more importantly understanding are not possible without connection, or in other words, the attempt to relate. It certainly helps to have discovered a potential ancestor in the collections of a museum or already relate to the content to connect to it, but that is not really necessary. It all comes down to the openness of the museum visitor. Even with all the painstaking work curators and educators put into designing exhibits and educational strategies that foster connections, without the visitor’s effort, connecting is not possible. And I challenge you to connect; explore a museum (its exhibits, website, resources) with not only a keen eye for understanding, but also an open heart for connecting. While I initially intended this blog post to focus on sharing a cool discovery of mine, I appreciate your patience in letting me take a different turn to remind us all that that museums are beyond interesting and even beyond relevant—they are personal.

All that being said, did you know you do not need Past Perfect to look at the JMM’s collections? Our collections, archives, and photographs are available for your exploration on the JMM website. What will you discover?

 

 

[1] Krasner, Jonathan B. The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education. Brandeis University Press2011.

 

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