The Tale of The Twin Vision Book and Read Across America Day at The JMM

Posted on March 11th, 2013 by

Robin as RobinA blog post by Museum Volunteer Robyn Hughes, MA.

As a docent at the JMM, I not only get to give tours to the public, but I also have the opportunity to work on a wide array of programs and projects. My most recent project was the production of a twin vision book. A twin vision book is a book with braille text, print text and print illustrations. The idea to create this book first entered my mind when I saw the print books in the reading nook in our new exhibit ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938 – 1950, during Docent training prior to the exhibit opening. I shared my idea with my colleagues and they were as excited about the project as I was! We were motivated to bring to fruition at the JMM the aspiration “That All May Read,” a quote that I had seen years before on the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped’s web page and have always been moved by. If you are curious about the number of potential Museum guests who could benefit from having access to a book in this format, some medical researchers have estimated that at least five million Americans have a severe visual impairment or blindness.

Picture 029The production of the book was truly a team effort. First, my supervisor Ilene Dackman-Alon, the Director of Education at the JMM, searched for a story in a classic comic book for us to translate. She selected the Madcap Mariner by Walt Disney Comics. Ilene then transcribed the print text into a Word file and emailed it to me. I used braille translation software to translate it and to print it on my braille printer. The translation and printing process is not as laborious as one may think, thanks to braille translation software. It actually only takes five mouse clicks to complete. I proof read the translated text to check for translation errors, but the braille translation software programs are so accurate these days that mistakes in straightforward text documents are uncommon. After the braille text was completed, my mother Norma Service, with assistance from her husband Bill photocopied the print text and illustrations in a large font size, so that the book would be accessible to as many visitors as possible. We then assembled the book.

The most time consuming part of the project for my mother and me was trying to get the braille text to correspond with the print text on each page, because braille is approximately twice the size of print.  After much work that included some reformatting of the braille text, we were successful. We had created the first publicly available twin vision book adaptation of a story from a classic comic book in the United States (at least as far as we know)! The original print version of the story is 4 pages long with 487 words; in contrast the twin vision book with the same number of words is 29 pages long.

Picture 028Now that we had a book, we needed to let the world (or at least our part of it) know about it. That was when the real fun began! I started looking on the major national low vision organizations’ online calendars for programs that would tie-in-with both our book and our exhibit. I was amazed at our good fortune, I saw that the National Federation of the Blind was planning their own celebration of Read Across America Day (a nationwide commemoration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday), which was (at that time) just a week away on March 2nd. I contacted Melissa Riccobono, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland to invite her to help us at the JMM celebrate the Day. She accepted our invitation and came and read The Madcap Mariner in the Feldman Gallery to much applause. Please come be a part of this continuing Tale of The Twin Vision Book and explore the world of the classic comic book at the JMM! The exhibit will be at the Museum until August 18th, 2013.

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Time to get SUPER at the JMM!

Posted on January 9th, 2013 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus.

It has been one year since I began working at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and in that year I have learned a lot about… food.  Basically if I described my job to most people it would sound like I work in a food museum or some type of community restaurant.  We have organized taste tests, food demos, cooking competitions, programs about the history of foods and food traditions – all in all it has been a delicious year.

But just as all good meals must come to an end (generally with some kind of tasty dessert), so must all good exhibits.  And now it’s time to switch gears from working in a food museum to working in a Superhero museum.  Lucky me!

Step one of working in a Superhero Museum – Read up on superheroes.  Ok, maybe I needed some help with this one (nods to Rachel Kassman, and her comic book library).

Step two – Talk to superhero experts.  To successfully complete this task, several of us took a field trip to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM), located just across the inner harbor from the JMM at 301 West Camden Street.  GEM was started by Steve Geppi, a local entrepreneur and comic book aficionado.  He is also a comic book publisher and distributor.  Basically everything you could ever hope to learn about comic books is located within the walls of GEM, not to mention all types of other pop culture memorabilia, and a hall of fame of local Baltimore heroes.  (Fun fact: I learned that the flat bottom ice cream cone was invented in Baltimore.  See, I am still preoccupied with food facts!)  The docent at GEM was kind enough to show us around the museum and put me in touch with the museum’s curator Andy Hershberger who put me in touch with the former curator, Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg.

Dr. Blumberg is – get this – a professor of comic books and zombies (seriously, he teaches courses on these subjects at UMBC and University of Baltimore. Amazing!)

Step three – Contact a real live superhero.  It’s not every day that you make a phone call at work and the person on the other line answers, “Hello, Batman speaking.”  But that is truly what happened when I phoned Lenny Robinson (oh no, first rule of superheroes has been breached – never discuss the superhero’s real world alter ego).  Robinson is a Baltimorean who visits charities, hospitals, and other events around the country as the Caped Crusader himself.

With the JMM’s transformation into the Jewish Museum of All Things Superheroes nearly complete, we invite you to get in on the fun (particularly steps 2 and 3 of becoming a Superhero Museum)  In just a few weeks we will open the exhibit ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938 – 1950, and everyone is invited!  We will be holding two opening events.  On Saturday, January 26th from 7-9pm, we will have an exclusive members-only preview event of ZAP! POW! BAM!  Meet Dr. Blumberg and hear from him all about the history of comic books and how they have informed his life’s work.  If you want to attend this event, but you are not yet a member, never fear, Sue Foard our membership coordinator is here to save the day!!!  You can contact her at or call 410-732-6400 ext. 220.

At the public opening on Sunday, January 27th, the exhibit will be open from 10am – 5pm.  From 11am – 1pm you can meet BATMAN (in his Batmobile, weather permitting)!  This event is free for members and free for kids in superhero costumes.  The event is included in the cost of admission for all other attendees.

We have lots of exciting programs planned for this spring, and we hope to see you here at the JMM to be super with us.

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