The Color of Transformation

Posted on May 18th, 2017 by

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

JMM & Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling go to ISRI!

JMM & Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling go to ISRI!

Last month, Marvin and I attended that national conference of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in New Orleans. JMM is working on an original, national, traveling exhibition about the Scrap industry. Entitled Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, the exhibit is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018, and we hope to send it on the road to four or more venues. (Regular readers of the JMM blog may remember reading about it here.)  Marvin and I were in New Orleans, along with our contract curator, Jill Vexler, working on collecting stories, canvassing for artifacts, and soliciting financial support.

As a total novice to the industry—I’m not even working directly on the exhibit, but was filling in for a colleague at the conference—I was fascinated by what I found on the exhibit floor at ISRI—but maybe not why you expect.

Gershow Recycling facility. Photo by Jeffrey Katz.

Gershow Recycling facility. Photo by Jeffrey Katz.

I have been seeing images from scrap yards around the JMM office for months now. Most notably from the stunning photography of Board Member Jeff Katz, who provided images for our fundraising and marketing materials for the exhibition. Jeff’s photos are textural and gritty. They are also, at least as we ended up using them, black and white.

The exhibit hall at the ISRI conference in the New Orleans Convention Center was in living color.

An array of sunny equipment.

An array of sunny equipment.

As I wandered the floor, looking for swag to bring back to my 5-year-old daughter, I started to notice how brightly colored many of the pieces of sample equipment were.  There were a number of bright yellow items, which is to be expected, I suppose (my childhood toy crane was also a sunny yellow), but there were also bright orange machines and several blue sorters (that were so cool to see demonstrated).

And then I saw the pink one.

And then I saw the pink one.

And from there I started really paying attention. What goes into the manufacturers’ minds as they consider what color to make their equipment for the scrap yard? Some take a very utilitarian approach with dark gray equipment. That seems straightforward and expected. Tools of all sizes, even super huge ones, tend to be gray or silver or black. Why the bright colors? Why pink? I figured it was so that they were easily seen amidst the mountains of trash-colored scrap.

I guess I don’t need to ask why the airbrushed stars and bald eagle (whoa!).

I guess I don’t need to ask why the airbrushed stars and bald eagle (whoa!).

As I met more and more folks on the exhibit hall floor (we were something of an anomaly in an exhibit hall full of shredders and sorters and welders and other must-have technology for the modern scrap or recycling yard), and I told them the story of the exhibit again and again, something sunk in. The scrap industry and now the recycling industry is fundamentally a story of transformation. It is the story of transforming trash into raw materials even as it transformed unemployable immigrants into business-men and entrepreneurs.

I met several men and women who were in a third or fourth generation in the scrap business. They told me great stories of their grandfathers who built a livelihood out of what others considered trash.

And as I wandered the floor on the final day of the conference with these stories and the idea of transformation on my mind, I suddenly really appreciated the bright, look-at-me colors on the floor. These machines are not just tools. They are magical. They turn trash into raw material. That’s a remarkable thing.

Maybe the bright colors are practical—to make the super-expensive equipment highly visible. But to me, it’s more than that. Magical tools deserve magical colors. Colors that nature creates to showcase its beauty and the power are completely appropriate for machines that perform the transformation of matter.

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Fancy Conference Badges, 1909-1937

Posted on May 25th, 2016 by

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

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

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.”

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

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.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

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Once Upon a Time…02.14.2014

Posted on October 21st, 2014 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 at 410.732.6400 x226 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

 

1987065211Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: February 14, 2014

 

 

PastPerfect Accession #: 1987.065.211

 

 

Status: Mostly unidentified. Do you know these attendees at the 1953 Annual Convention of the Joseph M. Zamoiski Company, held December 20, 1952? Joseph Zamoiski is #6 in the photo!

 

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