Posted on July 23rd, 2014 by Rachel
My husband and kids were having a wonderful time on their first day of vacation in San Francisco. They had visited the Japanese Tea Garden, hung out with an old friend of my husband’s and dined on dumplings in Chinatown. And then my husband, Jonathan, called with a crisis. “We forgot to pack Flat Mendes” he announced sadly.
For those of you unfamiliar, Flat Mendes is a paper doll cutout of one of Maryland’s most accomplished Jew and the subject of an upcoming exhibition, The A-mazing Mendes Cohen (opening September 14). Because the real life Mendes spent three years as an intrepid traveler throughout Europe and the Middle East, we have created a virtual Mendes so that he can continue his travels in the 21st century visiting places he may have visited more than 150 years ago and places that we are sure he would have loved to had he had the chance. For the Cardin-Willis Family, this meant bringing Flat Mendes with us to California and photographing him in every iconic spot we could find.
But first, we had to overcome this crisis. My husband and children flew out to San Francisco while the laminated version of Mendes was in Baltimore. Fortunately, I knew how to resolve this problem and directed Jonathan to a downloadable version of Flat Mendes on the JMM website. (You can do this too, go to http://jewishmuseummd.org/2014/06/flat-mendes/). Because the hotel did not have a color printer, my ever resourceful husband stopped at CVS, bought some crayons and the girls had fun coloring him in.
Jonathan and Mendes
Then the fun really began. Mendes fit in quite a bit in his one-week jaunt through California.
First stop, Alcatraz, the famed prison off the coast of San Francisco. Here he excitedly holds his own ticket.
Behind Bars – While the real life Mendes did have a brush with the law when he was fined for violating Virginia law by selling out of state lottery tickets there, thankfully, he never actually did time in prison.
Mendes enjoyed his trip up hilly San Francisco streets traveling by cable car.
Mendes even made some new friends!
With the Willis girls as his guide, Mendes got in some exercise biking over the Golden Gate Bridge. We have records of Mendes traveling by boat, train and horse but this mode of transport was surely a first for him.
What better way to refresh after a long and arduous bike ride then with a stop at San Francisco’s beloved Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory. Mendes proved to be quite the San Francisco fan and even picked up a souvenir baseball hat.
On the way down the coast, Mendes stopped to admire the beauty of California’s Redwood trees.
I met Jonathan, Madeline and Julia in Pismo Beach, CA, along California’s central coast where we had a blast taking surfing lessons. Mendes had to get in the action too. I think he may have even started a new surfing trend. The next day we saw many surfing dudes wearing turbans!
Mendes’s final adventure was kayaking in Morro Bay where he enjoyed viewing sea lions and otters.
Mendes is now home in Baltimore recuperating from jet lag. But he will soon be ready for new adventures and we can’t wait to see where else he goes!
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click HERE.
Posted on June 18th, 2014 by Rachel
Partnerships are something that we take seriously at the JMM and many of our programs and initiatives are conducted in collaboration with other institutions. We frequently work with other museums to develop and promote programs and we belong to such networks as the Greater Baltimore History Alliance (www.baltimoremuseums.org) and the Council of American Jewish Museums (www.cajm.net) which foster collaboration among member organizations.
Our next major original exhibition, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, takes the concept of partnerships to new heights.
Opening September 14th – but you can start following Mendes and his travels now on Facebook!
We are developing the exhibition as a joint project with the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS). As the MdHS is the custodian of many important artifacts and documents relating to Mendes Cohen, including the dozens of letters he wrote home during his travels, this partnership is truly a win/win for both organizations.
The JMM is incredibly grateful to the Burt Kummerow, director of MHS, and his staff for all of their assistance with this project. Jobi Zink and I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with Eben Dennis (job title) who showed us many of the artifacts we are hoping to display in the exhibit.
After spending so much time looking at reproductions of such objects as the firman that Mendes received from the Ottoman Empire which granted him the right to officially visit Palestine as a tourist (becoming the first American to receive such an honor), I was blown away by seeing the actual piece of paper with its Arabic script. The size of the document is hard to conceive especially when thinking about the pocket sized nature of today’s travel documents. Mendes wrote about his pride in receiving this document and in a letter published by a Baltimore paper in 1831, he wrote, ““I have just received my Firman . It is very full and explicit, to give me aid, supply my wants, &c, through my travels. It is written . . . on a sheet of paper about two feet and a half square [original italics] the size of the paper constituting, in some measure, its importance. . . . When it is presented to a Turk, he respects it by bowing, putting forward his head, and kissing the Sultan’s signature at the top of the paper. This necessary document I have received very promptly from Constantinople, an evidence of the dispatch given to our affairs there by our new Charge. It is, I believe, the first American Firman which has been issued, our countrymen heretofore having been obliged to procure them through the English Ambassador.”
Although The A-mazing Mendes Cohen does not open at the JMM until September 14, 2014, for those who cannot wait until then to learn more about this fascinating individual be sure to check out MdHS’s current exhibit In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland During the War of 1812.The exhibit includes such wonderful artifacts as the epaulets and hat that Mendes took to wearing many years after his participation in the War of 1812.
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah, click here. To read more posts about Mendes Cohen, click here.
Posted on March 19th, 2014 by Rachel
On March 13, I attended a program at the University of Maryland’s Health Sciences Library in conjunction with a traveling exhibition that the Library is hosting, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. This exhibit, created by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, has been traveling throughout the country for several years. The exhibition explores the rise of eugenics in Nazi Germany and how the quest to create a master race resulted in a public campaign to rid society of “undesirables” including those with mental and physical disabilities as well as individuals who were considered members of inferior races, such as Jews.
The exhibition’s curator, Susan Bachrach, gave a lecture to a crowd of medical students, University of Maryland administrators and professors, and community members. Dr. Bachrach’s riveting talk included background on the history of the eugenics movement, both in Weimar Germany as well as in other countries including the US. Many in the audience were unaware of the fact that forced sterilization was legal in several states in the US in the first half of the 20th century. While Maryland did not have such a law, in one notable 1927 Supreme Court case, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion upholding Virginia’s law in the 1927 case against Carrie Buck. (For more on this case, check out www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/VA/VA.html.)
Although the exhibit is difficult to view from the point of view of its deeply disturbing content and imagery, the subject matter is incredibly important and relevant for contemporary audiences especially in light of current debates on medical ethics. Dr. Bachrach’s lecture included video testimony from Holocaust survivors including siblings who were sent to Auschwitz where they were subjected to the notorious Dr. Mengele’s experiments on twins. Following this emotional testimony, it was hard to look at a photograph of Dr. Mengele in which he looks like a “normal” doctor going about his business. We so often think of the perpetuators of the Holocaust as evil monsters and it is difficult to grapple with the fact that their appearance does not always conform to this characterization.
The USHMM has created a virtual exhibit on their website that features more information as well as images.
The JMM and BJC are co-sponsoring a teacher training workshop taking place at the University of Maryland’s Health Sciences Library on April 2. The program is open to educators of all backgrounds.
Deadly Medicine is on view through April 30.
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah, click here.