Posted on January 27th, 2014 by Rachel
This summer the JMM will host a unique visitor experience designed to appeal to budding engineers, artists, scientists, DIY-ers and anyone curious to learn about technological innovation and its connections to Jewish life. Our Feldman Gallery will be transformed into a participatory lab-style environment where visitors can discover the mystery behind scientific principles such as magnetism, electricity, solar power, and more through fun and engaging interactive activities. The gallery will serve as a community festival space where people can come to experiment, create, and learn from one another.
Photo Credit Flikr, Creative Commons, sDuchamp
As part of our planning for this event, this week several members of staff joined collections manager Jobi Zink for a tour of our collections to see what we might be able to display in the gallery relating to the theme of technology and innovation. To my surprise, there was a plethora of artifacts for consideration to showcase the kinds of things that while are considered obsolete today, were formerly at the forefront of technological innovation. Consider for example the sewing machine that revolutionized clothing manufacturing and is also an item associated with Jewish immigrants many of whom found employment in Baltimore’s clothing factories in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Here is a sewing machine that was displayed in Hello Gorgeous! Staff often jokes that at the JMM we rarely have an exhibit that does not include a sewing machine or trunk.
While today’s electric sewing machine looks different from the foot powered ones in our collections, the basic concept has not really changed all that much. That is certainly not true of other objects in our collection such as the typewriter or phonograph.
This typewriter has Hebrew characters.
We look forward to playing games with some of our younger guests to the exhibit to see if they can figure out what these ancient objects were once used for!
During our tour of the collections, we came upon my all time favorite object.
Deborah’s favorite object.
Can you guess what this is? No, this is not a medieval torture instrument or a relic from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. This was a hair styling implement used in Sonya’s Beauty Salon in the 1930s so that women could transform their straight hair into the more fashionable permanent wave style. Funny how hair style trends come and go and new gadgets are constantly being invented so women can keep up with the latest. (Perhaps I should hold onto my 13 year old daughter’s collection of flat irons used to flatten every trace of curl in her hair for a future exhibit!)
And lest you think we only collect women’s beauty implements, here is another hair styling implement used to clip men’s hair in Kramer’s Barber Shop on Bond Street.
In displaying objects such as these, we plan on illustrating the impact of invention on everyday Jewish life and help visitors make connections between the tools that changed the lives of our parents and grandparents and the high-tech gadgets that fill our lives today. We hope you will join us this summer – the Electrified Pickle runs from July 13-August 10.
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah, click HERE.
Posted on December 18th, 2013 by Rachel
An assignment this week to create a list of the most memorable JMM activities of 2013 (see JMM Insights, December 19, 2013 – coming on Friday!) inspired quite a bit of discussion among our staff, and turned out to be a fun exercise. The pace here at the JMM is often so fast and it is rare that we have time to reflect on events that have taken place and to savor our successes as there is always something new that demands our immediate attention. Winnowing the list down to include twelve memorable events (we just couldn’t stop at 10) proved challenging, an indication of the many wonderful things that took place this past year across all departments.
As I reviewed the list that made the final cut, one activity really stood out from the pack, and that was the debut of our newest living history character based on the life of beloved Baltimore icon and caterer extraordinaire, Bessie Bluefeld.
Actor Terry Nicholetti performing as Bessie Bluefeld
When I first arrived at the JMM thirteen years ago, one of my first assignments was to begin work on an educational activity that would serve as a resource for Jewish day and congregational schools on the topic of immigration history. That kit became the Immigrant’s Trunk which explored the lives of two Jewish immigrants who settled in Baltimore in the early 20th century, Ida Rehr and Saul Bernstein, through reproductions of JMM collections items such as photos, immigration documents, and Jewish ritual items.
A photograph of immigrant Ida Rehr with her siblings before she left her home in Ukraine to settle in Baltimore
The concept of the trunk grew to encompass a living history component complete with professional actors who portrayed the lives of the immigrants whose experiences are explored through the trunk contents.
Actor Katherine Lyons who portrays Ida Rehr with the trunk
These performances proved popular, not just with Jewish students but also non-Jewish students attending public and Catholic school and adults too. Over the years it has been amazing to watch as this program that started with such humble ambitions has evolved in the Leo V. Berger Immigrant’s Trunk, one of the JMM signature programs for audiences of all backgrounds, including versions of the trunk designed for preschool audiences as well as for individuals with visual impairments.
Actor Tim King portraying Saul Bernstein at a performance for Cross Country Elementary students
And now we have added a brand new character, Bessie Bluefeld, who has already proved enormously popular with audiences. Bessie’s story encapsulates so many rich themes as the performance begins with her arriving fresh off the boat in Baltimore’s Locust Point where she marvels at just how different her new home is from what she has left behind and goes on to dramatize the extraordinary effort she places in creating a home for her husband and children and her determination to save the family from financial ruin after a bad business deal.
Bessie arriving in Locust Point
One of the joys of this particular living history character is that so many Baltimoreans have fond memories of Bluefeld Catering and loved sharing the stories of their special events during the Q&A session following performances.
Bessie answering questions following a performance
We have also been privileged to talk to members of the Bluefeld family including Bessie’s son Louis and grandchildren who have shared treasured family stories and photographs. At the performance debut this past spring, we were delighted to welcome so many members of the Bluefeld family.
Members of the Bluefeld family at the spring performance debut
Bessie greeting a member of the Bluefeld family following her performance
It was evident that the performance resonated with the members of the family in attendance and there was hardly a dry eye in sight when one of her grandsons stood up to thank the JMM. In his words, “You gave me back my grandmother.” This simple expression of gratitude sums up exactly what it is that the JMM strives to do. As I reflect back on a year of so many successes, this is my number one moment!
We are grateful to everyone whose hard work and dedication brought Bessie to life with a special thank you to script writer Jonathon Scott Fuqua, director and producer Harriet Lynn of Heritage Theatre Artists’ Consortium, and actor Terry Nicholetti. We are also most appreciative of the Leo V. Berger Fund for their continued support of our Immigrant’s Trunk program.
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click here.
Posted on November 14th, 2013 by Rachel
Having traveled for more than a year from the city to the suburbs and back, Jews on the Move: Baltimore and the Suburban Exodus, 1945-1968 has finally ended its run.
Here we are installing the exhibit at its first venue in Hodson Hall at Johns Hopkins University. From there, it traveled to several suburban synagogues, the Owings Mills JCC, the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Library and the Edward A. Myerberg Center.
Davidson moving truck, CP 57.2012 – while we did not need quite so large a moving truck to handle the exhibit’s travel, my trusty old minivan certainly got put to good use as we hauled the exhibit panels from site to site.
We were delighted by how the exhibit was received by the many different individuals who had the opportunity to view it and I thought I’d take an opportunity to share some of the visitor feedback that we received in the exhibit comment book.
Pratt Library Installation
“Thank you for taking us down memory lane as we enjoyed reliving our childhoods. Our grandchildren enjoyed the exhibit as well.”
“Very interesting, would be interested to see where that trend [of suburbanization] is today and also how this shift changed government funding of urban v. suburban projects.”
Model home, Pikesville, CP58.2012.11
“Those ranch homes on Old Court Road were the landscape of my childhood. How cool to see them with new trees, eight years before my parents moved to the neighborhood! Thanks for the exhibit.”
Har Sinai Groundbreaking, 1995.126.023
“My friend is in the front row of the groundbreaking of Har Sinai photo. We became friends in kindergarten and are still friends 57 years later.”
“As a Jew from Bmore, who grew up in Pikesville, whose grandparents grew up in the inner city of Baltimore, you have essentially depicted my history. Thanks!”
Jews on the Move was developed in collaboration with the Museums and Society Program at Johns Hopkins University through the generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. We are grateful to Professor Elizabeth Rodini, Jennifer Kingsley and the JHU students who helped us organize this exhibit.
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click here.