Posted on May 25th, 2016 by Rachel
Tomorrow is the first day of the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums, held this year in Washington, D.C. Many of us are planning to attend, and in the upcoming days you’ll see plenty of social media updates as we enjoy several days of camaraderie, learning, and swag from the Expo Hall.
When we register tomorrow, we’ll get our nametags, printed clearly on heavy paper and perhaps strung on a nice branded lanyard. Now, I know that organizing several thousand badges is neither simple nor inexpensive, but for a meeting related to museums – many of which include historical collections – it always seems a shame that there’s no nod to the substantial, and considerably more glam, name badges of the past.
I do like an artifact that conveniently provides its own history, and convention badges of the late 19th to mid 20th century fit that bill. Granted, so do most badges from modern conferences, since the point is to state your name and location regardless of the materials of which it’s made. But while we’ll most likely get a piece of paper slipped into a clear plastic sleeve (which one is, rightfully, encouraged to recycle at the end of the event), our predecessors received a thing, meant to be saved: Satin ribbons with shiny printing, bright colors proclaiming one’s regional or professional allegiance, elaborate metal badges, gold fringe, and other embellishments, usually topped off with a small, discreet slot for the attendee’s name. Many cities had companies devoted to the production of these badges, and a big convention coming to town meant money for them as well as for the associated venues, caterers, and hotels.
Badge manufacturers in Baltimore, from the 1909-1910 Baltimore Business Directory (R.L. Polk). Gift of Peppy Zulver. JMM 1990.168.2
Since I’m not likely to get my wish this weekend, here are a few examples from our collection. I hope you’ll never be quite satisfied with your flimsy conference name tags again!
Satin ribbon with safety pin, made by G.N. Meyer Mfg., Washington, D.C. “Conference on the Care of Dependent Children, Called by President Theodore Roosevelt, Jan. 25-26 1909, Washington, D.C.” Gift of Judge Jacob M. Moses. JMM 1963.42.13c
Baltimore’s Jacob Moses, then Judge of the Juvenile Court of Maryland, was invited to speak at this conference in D.C. In his opening address, President Roosevelt urged attendees to “take a progressive stand, so as to establish a goal toward which the whole country can work.” Judge Moses’s speech – which a pencil notation on the top indicates was only to be “five minutes” – was entitled “How the Juvenile Court May Protect the Young Child.”
Left: Satin ribbon with metal badges, including the skyline of Milwaukee. “Nathan Trupp – Baltimore. Delegate 34th Annual Convention, July 6-7-8-9 1931. National Association of Retail Grocers.”
Right: Satin ribbon with enamel and metal badges. “Maryland at the Chicago Convention 1934. National Association of Retail Grocers. Nathan Trupp, Baltimore, Md.” Both gift of Irwin Kramer. JMM 2006.31.12, .15
Nathan Trupp of Baltimore served as President of the Maryland Grocer’s Association in the 1930s. He attended several National Association conferences across the U.S. In 1931, in Milwaukee, President Hoover sent greetings to the foreign attendees on behalf of U.S. delegates; in 1934 in Chicago, attendees were able to enjoy the Century of Progress International Exhibition.
Satin badge with metal and enamel badges, and metallic fringe. “Member, The Royal Sisters Society of Baltimore, Inc.” Gift of Helen Glaser. JMM 1998.114.9a
The Royal Sisters Society of Baltimore was founded in 1937 by Mollie Gresser, Reba Cooper, and several others. It was a philanthropic group, raising funds for various worthy causes around the city – but it was also a sisterhood, with formal meetings and regulated membership. The slip of paper announcing this particular member’s name is gone, unfortunately.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.
Posted on March 25th, 2016 by Rachel
This year’s Council of American Jewish Museum’s (CAJM) annual conference took place in NY from March 20-22 and focused on the topic of “Next Narratives”. Conversation flowed surrounding the topic of storytelling with many thought provoking sessions devoted to exploring how Jewish museums can develop new more inclusive narratives through exhibitions, programs and outreach initiatives.
2016 CAJM Conference
The conference lineup was impressive and featured artists, scholars, museum professionals and philanthropists. The opening plenary highlighted novel storytelling methods with presentations by Annie Polland of the Tenement Museum, author Bruce Feiler and artist and filmmaker, Tiffany Shlain. I was reminded again about just what a brilliant job the Tenement Museum does in telling stories about the immigrants who inhabited 97 Orchard Street and loved Annie’s endorsement of “messy storytelling” by training guides to learn how to give unscripted tours that incorporate participants’ stories. You can find out more about the Tenement Museum’s tours and programs at tenement.org.
Another thought provoking session, “The Ten-Foot Pole of Jewish Museums: Where is the Religious Narrative?” raised a rather provocative issue – are Jewish museums afraid to wrestle with religious content in meaningful ways? One of the panelists, Melanie Holcomb from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shared how a beautiful musical installation that her staff created at the Cloisters enhanced visitor engagement with religious art. The discussion among participants following the panelists was particularly insightful.
Audience engagement through non-traditional means was emphasized in the final panel of the conference, “Audacious Space: Rethinking Gallery Engagement”.
Colleagues from The Contemporary Jewish Museum (San Francisco), The Jewish Museum (NY), the National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia) and Museum Hack highlighted work that they have done to bring in new audiences through such means as providing contemporary artists opportunities to create installations based on their interpretation of collections and exhibitions (often displayed in unusual spaces). The Contemporary Jewish Museum has developed a popular series of 20-minute gallery chats that provide visitors with the chance to hear from a diverse group of speakers who have some connection to exhibition content. (Check out current offerings developed for the Bill Graham exhibit.)
Museum Hack, a tour company that is not affiliated with a museum, has a reputation for leading highly entertaining tours that are popular with millennials. This presentation was especially fun and audience members enjoyed participating in an activity creating stories of individuals portrayed in famous art portraits. For more about the irreverent approach that Museum Hack takes to developing its interactive tours with the tagline “This Isn’t Your Grandma’s Museum Tour” check out museumhack.com.
In addition to the valuable content gleaned from sessions, the CAJM conference also offers plenty of opportunities for networking with colleagues from across the country as well as from Canada, Europe and Israel. Taking advantage of the many amazing cultural venues in New York, attendees had the chance to view multiple exhibits, including Beit Hatfutsots’ exhibit Here Comes the Bride: [pdf] at Temple Emanue-el.
At the Jewish Museum we viewed an incredible exhibit displaying gowns, sketches and costumes by Isaac Mizrahi.
Center for Jewish History
A blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.
Posted on October 29th, 2015 by Rachel
Building Communities: MAAM 2015
Last week I went to the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums annual conference in Philadelphia. The theme of the conference was “Embracing Diversity In All We Do.” It was fitting that it was held in the historic center. A plaque around the corner from the conference hotel stated that it was in Philadelphia where Quakers, Jews, Catholics and Protestants “experienced the difficulties and discovered the possibilities of fruitful coexistence that American democracy was to offer.” The plaue also stated that diversity is still evident in the Old Philadelphia Congregations, a consortium of historic churchs and sygogogues that are working together to broaden interfaith understanding and celebrate Philadelphia’s inique contribution to religious freedom in America. Within steps from the conference hotel, I also discovered Mikveh Israel, which is Philadelphia’s oldest Jewish congregation and dates from the 1740s. In front of the synagogue stood a statue to Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy who was the first Jewish U.S. Navy Commodore serving during the Civil War.
Mikveh Israel and Uriah Levy
As a way of gaining admission to the conference, I volunteered in the morning assisting with set up and handing out of session evaluations. This was also a good chance for me to network with other museum professionals. I was glad to run into several former employees of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, including one intern, Falicia Eddy who is now back in graduate school. The first session I sent to was on developing programs to bridge the gap between museums and individuals with cognitive, intellectual and sensory processing disabilities. I came away with some ideas which I hope to implement at the Jewish Museum. I also went to a session on diversity, where the highlight for me was hearing from Melissa Yaverbaum, the Executive Director of the Council of American Jewish Museums. I was also fascinated to hear from Eastern State Penitentiary about how they have diversified their staff by hiring former prisioners as front line staff and tour guides.
MAAM conference session
Between sessions, I walked a few blocks over to visit the National Constitution Center to look at their new exhibit titled “Speaking Out for Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights, and the Supreme Court” as I felt that this supplemented nicely the theme of the conference. I concluded the day with a session focusing on social justice in museums and how museums have the potential to become centers of gravity for discussions around civic unrest and human rights. I left inspired by some of the efforts other institutions are making to diversify their audiences, programming, exhibits, and staff, but also committed to improving our Museum.
A blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.