Finding a Home in the Collections

Posted on October 30th, 2013 by

Within the first five minutes of my internship at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I found myself in the midst of an intimidating board meeting. Over the course of the next two months, I realized that I had joined a dynamic staff and a group of enthusiastic Collections interns. So far, I have worked with a wide range of collections including photographs, oral histories, scrapbooks, rare books, invitations, and Bar Mitzvah cards. The most exciting evening of my internship was the day Jobi Zink entrusted me with the condition reports for two swords and a rifle for the Passages through Fire: Jews and the Civil War exhibit. You can find photographic evidence of my excitement at handling these objects on the JMM Facebook album or by clicking these links: Civil War Sword and Full Sword and Scabbard.

While most of the other collections are not as thrilling as swords and rifles, I gained valuable insight about Jewish culture in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland by processing multimedia collections. As an out-of-state undergraduate at UMBC, learning about Jewish life in all aspects of Baltimore’s history has helped me feel at home. I particularly enjoyed processing an affectionate oral testimony about Camps Louise and Airy. Growing up, I never attended Jewish summer camps, so I was intrigued to learn about this important aspect in the history of Baltimore’s Jewish youth. This record is now available in the JMM’s digital collections (Oral History #170).

Most of my work is in the form of paper documents – ranging from Hebrew diplomas, High Holy Day Cards and Bar Mitzvah invitations to family photos and newspaper clippings from Jewish businesses. I am especially intrigued by the sheer extent of the collections donors such as Linda Lapides saw fit to donate to the JMM collections. Within her file, I found a vibrant story of Jewish life evolving and changing within the city of Baltimore. Perusing her donations helped me realize that Jewish life extended far beyond the walls of the synagogue in Baltimore City.  My favorite piece of the collection was a German-language book representing the early Zionist movement, encouraging Jewish people to migrate to what was then British Palestine (Palästina). This was an exciting opportunity to practice my German language skills! In the next file, I stumbled upon two scrapbooks and a large collection of photographs detailing the development of the family-owned Greenberg’s Jewelers – yet another reminder of Jewish life outside of the synagogue. I can’t wait to find out what else lies in store for me to process in the library closed stacks!

Intern JenA blog post by Collections Intern Jen Wachtel. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.

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