Behind the Scenes: Identifying the Once Upon a Time Photographs

Posted on January 29th, 2014 by

Everyone has their favorite section in the Jewish Times. For some it’s the Jewish View, others it’s the milestone life events. If you’re like me it’s the Snapshots photograph in the Mishmash section. Will this be the week that you’ll recognize someone—maybe even yourself—in the photo?

Snapshots photographs are located just about the “Overheard at Goldbergs” column.

Snapshots photographs are located just about the “Overheard at Goldbergs” column.

I might be biased as my volunteers and interns help select which images are reproduced, but I genuinely love the excited phone calls from first-time identifiers. They feel like they’ve won a prize when they proudly tell me who they know! On the other hand, I am sad someone says they recognized folks in the past but they didn’t want to call in because they figured someone else called, or that I already knew who was in the picture before we printed it.  (Trust me: we have thousands of photographs that need IDs so I wouldn’t waste your time with those that are already identified.)

No one has identified this group standing in a parking lot in August 1988.

No one has identified this group standing in a parking lot in August 1988.

There is also no penalty for (unintentionally) getting it wrong. In fact 6 people in 5 different photos have been given a “double identity.” Both names are recorded.

Double trouble!  Two out of three women have been identified with conflicting names. Left to Right: 1. Nan Rothhultz 2. Dottie Levin OR Reba (Rebecca) Cohen 3. Lucille Colliver OR Laura Rubin Lafferman

Double trouble! Two out of three women have been identified with conflicting names. Left to Right: 1. Nan Rothhultz 2. Dottie Levin OR Reba (Rebecca) Cohen 3. Lucille Colliver OR Laura Rubin Lafferman

And while I prefer that you provide the whole name, this year we had 3 first names and 5 last names given. Perhaps this will spark someone else’s memory.

The JCC volunteers were on a first-name basis. Left to Right: 1. Esther Pugauski  2. Gertrude Deitz 3. Lee (last name not provided)   4. Sam (last name not provided)

The JCC volunteers were on a first-name basis. Left to Right: 1. Esther Pugauski 2. Gertrude Deitz 3. Lee (last name not provided) 4. Sam (last name not provided)

I thought I’d run some year-end statistics on this popular feature for your consideration. Since beginning this column in 2007 there has been a steady 63-65% identification rate. This year 91 people called in to identify someone—132 someones! This means on average, each caller identified 1.4 people. 63.4% of the images published in 2013 were at least partially identified. And of those 33 photos, 64 % of the people depicted (132 of 206) were identified.

Ten people called to identify the attendees at Samuel Neistadt’s 60th birthday party. Seated Left to Right: 1. Reuben Livov 2. Samuel Neistadt  3. unidentified 4. Doris Weikers Kahn Standing Left to Right: 1. Hyman Winnik 2. Carl Friedler  3. Jacob Jaffe 4. Isaac H. Taylor. Thanks Susan Weikers Balaban, Fay Adler, Dorothy Livov, Barbie (Livov) Weiss, Ronald Taylor. Richard Taylor, Deborah Taylor, Bruce Taylor, Ellen Friedler Eisenstadt, and Norma Wollod!

Ten people called to identify the attendees at Samuel Neistadt’s 60th birthday party. Seated Left to Right: 1. Reuben Livov 2. Samuel Neistadt 3. unidentified 4. Doris Weikers Kahn. Standing Left to Right: 1. Hyman Winnik 2. Carl Friedler 3. Jacob Jaffe 4. Isaac H. Taylor. Thanks Susan Weikers Balaban, Fay Adler, Dorothy Livov, Barbie (Livov) Weiss, Ronald Taylor. Richard Taylor, Deborah Taylor, Bruce Taylor, Ellen Friedler Eisenstadt, and Norma Wollod!

I asked my favorite statistician, Ben, why our identification rate is so consistent. His response was: With enough of a randomly selected sample you can minimize the error [in this case, no identifications]… As you continue to increase your sample, you will get closer to the underlying probability or “natural rate.” In the case of your photographs the true underlying probability that a photo will be identifies is around 2/3. That seems to make sense, right?

Can you identify the other 33%? The B’nai Brith award recipient is among the people who aren’t identified.

Can you identify the other 33%? The B’nai Brith award recipient is among the people who aren’t identified.

Callers provided a few clues about these Hadassah ladies. Left to Right:  1. [man] unidentified 2. unidentified 3. unidentified 4.  Brownie Cummings (past president of Hadassah) 5.[standing behind] possibly Sarah Kapiloff 6.____ Grief 7. Sara Jacobs 8. Jenny Ehrlich 9. unidentified

Callers provided a few clues about these Hadassah ladies. Left to Right: 1. [man] unidentified 2. unidentified 3. unidentified 4. Brownie Cummings (past president of Hadassah) 5.[standing behind] possibly Sarah Kapiloff 6.____ Grief 7. Sara Jacobs 8. Jenny Ehrlich 9. unidentified

Naturally I was intrigued so I looked a little deeper into our identifications. It seems that photographs with 5 or more people are more 14.6% more likely to have even one person identified (69.6%) than photographs with 4 or fewer people (55%). Personal photographs of an intimate group might go entirely unidentified, but pictures from an institution, organization, or school almost always get at least one identification. The one major exception: there seems to be a black hole of knowledge related to photos taken at the JCC in the 1970s.

No has identified anyone in this photo of a JCC art class, March 1977

No has identified anyone in this photo of a JCC art class, March 1977

The Babysitters Club might have been a popular book series in the mid-1980s, but no one has identified these babysitters at the JCC in August 1977.

The Babysitters Club might have been a popular book series in the mid-1980s, but no one has identified these babysitters at the JCC in August 1977.

Armed with this new-found knowledge I can probably increase our identification rate slightly by choosing group photos from fun community events dating after 1950s. How can you help our efforts? Call or e-mail me if you recognize someone in a Snapshots photo. Even if you don’t subscribe to the Jewish Times, the JMM posts the photos on all of our social media outlets. You can also search our database jmm.pastperfect-online.com and enter keywords such as “Walk for Israel”, “Beth Tfiloh” or “Summer Camps.” Click the “send feedback” button and tell me who you recognize. Using this feature, three callers identified 55 out of 57 people in four photographs – a 96% success rate. Now that’s a statistic we should strive for ever year!

2009.040.0076.

This photo of formerly unidentified people at Baltimore Hebrew College commencement exercises, 1975 was ID’d by a researcher. Left to Right: Unidentified woman, Dr. George Berlin, Mr. Aaron Leibtag, Rabbi Levi Smolar, and Dr. Barry Gittlen. Thanks for your help, Susan!

 

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Jobi, click HERE. To see more “Once Upon a Time”/”Snapshots” photos, click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




The Electrified Pickle: A Community Tech and Craft Fair

Posted on January 27th, 2014 by

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 in jewish museum of maryland




Solving the puzzle of broken artifacts in the 1996 JMM expansion collection

Posted on January 20th, 2014 by

An ironstone plate with a maker’s mark on the base.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 in jewish museum of maryland




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