Performance Counts: Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project

Posted on July 15th, 2016 by

While we often devote the content of Performance Counts to analyzing numbers, this week’s edition instead highlights the personal stories that are at the heart of one of the most sobering statistic that we often discuss, the six million Jews (not to mention millions of others) who were murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices during the Holocaust.

In March 2017, JMM will open a new exhibition, Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity that brings together diverse projects that highlight different aspects of Holocaust history. The exhibition will be displayed in our Feldman Gallery where the visitor experience begins several centuries prior to the Holocaust when Ozwiecim, the town that eventually became known as Auschwitz, served as a site for a thriving Jewish community (A Town Known As Auschwitz from the Museum of Jewish Heritage). The community’s fortunes, however, changed significantly with the occupation of Poland by the Nazis in 1939 and visitors next examine the impact of the Nazi occupation through a display of blueprints and other documents that focus on the construction of the death camp that is now firmly associated with the town (The Architecture of Murder from the American Society for Yad Vashem). Dispersed throughout the gallery will be contemporary photographs of the camp by photographer, Keron Psillas, as well as related artifacts from the JMM collection and on loan from community members.

As plans for Remembering Auschwitz began to crystallize, it became clear that we were missing one key component, the individual stories that are central to understanding the Holocaust’s impact. We, therefore, decided to include an art installation that serves as the exhibition’s conclusion and provides an opportunity for visitors to reflect on the experiences of the people whose lives were upended by Nazi atrocities. The Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project is composed of individual plaques honoring the experiences of our local community of Holocaust survivors. This project was brought to JMM by artist, Lori Shocket and the Human Element Project. In the middle of June, Lori and her husband Neal spent two weeks in Baltimore helping facilitate workshops for Holocaust survivors, their descendants and family members. Participants were invited to bring photographs and documents that highlighted their experiences from before, during and after the Holocaust along with a personal statement. The materials that they brought were photocopied and integrated into collages on 10” x 10” canvasses. Working from photographs of the collages, Lori will then create plaques honoring each individual story that will be hung in our gallery.

Five workshops took place both at JMM and at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC. We were honored to meet nearly 20 Holocaust survivors who took part in the workshop themselves, sometimes with spouses, children, grandchildren and friends as their willing assistants. Many other children and grandchildren made collages in memory of family members who are no longer alive, some of whom perished during the Holocaust, others who survived but who have died in more recent years. Thanks to the assistance of more than a dozen volunteers, several of whom were new to JMM volunteer corps, we collected 47 beautiful collages that will be integrated into our art installation.

It was truly a privilege sorting through stacks (and sometimes bags, boxes and suitcases) of family treasures including photographs and documents and listening as participants shared stories of their beloved family members – some of whom did not survive. One thing that is clear from the collages we collected is that the experiences of our local community of Holocaust survivors are diverse. We counted more 10 countries of birth including Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Greece, Lithuania, Russia and Romania. Some collages honor the experiences of refugees whose families left Europe in the 1930s. Others experienced the horrors of confinement in camps and ghettos, while still others were hidden either alone as children or with other members of their families by generous and courageous non-Jews. We heard incredible and daring stories of escape, of survival in forests and close calls that almost resulted in arrests. By the end of each workshop, close relationships were often forged between JMM staff and volunteers and participants many of whom shared their appreciation for being given the opportunity to participate.

Although Lori and Neal returned to California, we are still holding additional workshops in an effort to collect more stories and collages. This Sunday, July 17, we will be at the JCC of Greater Washington at 12:00pm. We have timed the workshop to coincide with a monthly meeting of Montgomery County Holocaust survivors. We are also holding another workshop at JMM on Sunday, July 17 at 10:00am. JMM staff is also happy to make individual appointments so that people can come and make a collage at a time that is more convenient. For more information or to sign up for a workshop, please contact me at (443) 873-5165 / dcardin@jewishmuseummd.org.

We are grateful to the many individuals and institutions that have partnered with us on this special project including: Lori and Neal Shocket and the Human Element Project, the Baltimore Jewish Council, the Weinberg Park Heights JCC, the JCC of Greater Washington, the Center for Jewish Education and Jewish Community Services. And a huge thank you to the many wonderful volunteers, staff, board members and interns who assisted with the collages. We look forward to celebrating with everyone at the exhibit’s opening on March 5, 2017.

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An Invitation For Holocaust Survivors, Descendants and Their Families

Posted on June 15th, 2016 by

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is about to embark on an exciting new project designed to honor our community’s Holocaust survivors. As part of the Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project, we are inviting artist Lori Schocket to spend the next two weeks with us as she facilitates a series of workshops for Holocaust survivors, descendants and their families. (Visit www.thehumanelementproject.com to learn more about similar projects that Lori has facilitated in other communities.)

Participants are asked to bring with them artifacts, including photographs and documents, that highlight their experiences before, during and after the Holocaust, as well as a written statement that summarizes their stories.

A collage from a previous workshop

A collage from a previous workshop

During the workshops, which last between 2 ½ to 3 hours, Lori, along with a group of JMM staff members and volunteers, will assist participants as they share stories and incorporate the materials they have brought with them into collages on a 10” x 10” foam panel.

Previous workshop participants

Previous workshop participants

Each collage will be reproduced onto a large metal framework that will become an art installation. The installation will be featured in the JMM’s upcoming Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity exhibition on display March 5-May 29, 2016.

Remembering Auschwitz also includes A Town Known As Auschwitz, an exhibition developed by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, A Living Memorial To the Holocaust, and explores the pre-Holocaust history of the town, Oswiecim, where the camp was located.

Remembering Auschwitz also includes A Town Known As Auschwitz, an exhibition developed by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, A Living Memorial To the Holocaust, and explores the pre-Holocaust history of the town, Oswiecim, where the camp was located.

Workshops take place the following dates, times and locations:

Sunday, June 19: Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, 21202)

  • 10am-1:00pm
  • 2:00-5:00pm

Monday, June 20: Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, 21202)

  • 1:00-4:00pm
  • 6:00-9:00pm

Tuesday, June 21: Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, 21202)

  • 1:00-4:00pm
  • 6:00-9:00pm

Sunday, June 26: JCC (5700 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, 21215 – In the Community Room)

  • 1:00-4:00pm

Monday, June 27: JCC (5700 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, 21215 – In the Community Room)

  • 6:00-9:00pm

Tuesday, June 28: JCC (5700 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, 21215 – In the Community Room)

  • 6:00-9:00pm
Another sample collage

Another sample collage

We are pleased to partner with so many different organizations on this project including the Human Element Project, Baltimore Jewish Council, Jewish Communal Services, Center for Jewish Education and the JCC.

Please contact me at 410-732-6400 x236 / dcardin@jewishmuseummd.org for more information or to register for a workshop.

 

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Planning a New Exhibit

Posted on April 20th, 2016 by

Planning for a new JMM core exhibition took a big step forward yesterday with the convening of a planning charrette. (Charrette, the French word for “cart”, refers to an intensive planning session that involves group brainstorming around a set of questions or problems – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charrette ).

Participants included members of the JMM board and lay leaders who are members of our Program Committee as well as museum professionals and consultants, drawn from the fields of exhibition design and audience engagement. Over the course of three hours, group members shared memorable museum exhibition experiences and discussed strategies for creating meaningful core exhibit experiences.

The bulk of the time was spent in small group discussions where participants addressed a series of questions relating to “balance” and “tools”. Conversation on such topics as how one exhibit can meet the needs of diverse audiences (Maryland natives vs. tourists / Jewish vs. non-Jewish / students in groups vs. adults vs. families) and how to integrate the voices of visitors into the exhibition’s design dominated the first breakout session. The second session focused on more concrete tools for conveying content such as how to make effective use of archives and objects and how can we incorporate appropriate technology to enhance exhibit content.

Members from each group faithfully recorded observations and comments on flip chart sheets.

Members from each group faithfully recorded observations and comments on flip chart sheets.

that were then posted on the walls of the room for everyone in the entire group to view. Participants were encouraged to use stickers to note the comments that they felt were most important including statements such as “Don’t forget the importance of Wow!” “Make sure that the exhibit is flexible and can be changed to keep people coming back”, “Resist the urge to show everything”, “The best exhibits are experiences and invite exploration and journeys”.

Museum staff came away feeling energized by all the wonderful ideas and insights (and perhaps also slightly daunted by the challenges we still face in creating an innovative core exhibition that captures the full scope of Maryland Jewish history in a dynamic fashion). The exhibition is slated to open in 2019 so obviously, we are still just in the preliminary stages. Stay tuned for more!

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

 

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