Become an Upstander!


Volunteer Opportunities
in partnership with
Jewish Volunteer Connection


Studying Abroad: Where Museum Personalities Clash

Posted on August 2nd, 2017 by

By collections intern Amy Swartz. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

A few weeks ago we were tasked with reading pieces of John H Falk’s Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. For our weekly blog post that week, I wrote a bit about my initial reactions to the piece. However, while reading parts of the book I was really struck by his museum visitor’s model as I myself have inhabited those many models at different points in my life. This past spring I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and had the amazing opportunity to visit many European countries. As someone who loves museums so much that I want to work in one for the rest of my life, all of my trips included some type of museum visit. During these museum visits, depending on which museum I visited and who I was with, my identity flipped and flopped.

Falk’s five identities are explorer, facilitator, experience seeker, professional/hobbyist, and recharger. I am most often an explorer. I go into museums seeking to discover, I pick and chose what I spend my time on, and I often have some background knowledge. When I am with my friends, who are often experience seekers but sometimes explorers, I often am in a semi-facilitator role. I want them to learn and enjoy their visit so that we can actively discuss it. However, while in Europe my identity was in flux. I found that in my experience there are two types of museum experience for those who are studying abroad and traveling: the explorer and the experience seeker.

A ship in the Viking Museum, Oslo, Norway

A ship in the Viking Museum, Oslo, Norway

The explorer traveler finds museums in new cities and decides that a museum visit would be a good way to learn about the city or country’s culture. They go simply because they think it would be a cool experience and are more likely to go to a museum that is either free or has a museum discount rather than an expensive museum. My time in Oslo fits this description. My sister and I did not know what to do in the city, especially since it was rather rainy our whole trip and the city is quite expensive. We bought a museum pass, which was a great purchase and visited the Fram Museum and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, among others. I approached each visit solely as an explorer. I came in without any expectations or assumptions and simply enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

One of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

One of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

The experience seeker finds themselves at museums while abroad for the great or well-known works housed inside. They often operate on a limited schedule and work to check certain things off their bucket list The best example of this was my time in Paris. While at the Louvre, my best friend and I saw a lot but we narrowed down our visit to the greats: the Mona Lisa (an obvious choice), the Nike of Samothrace, and the Venus de Milo. We quickly went to the Le Musée de l’Orangerie next, only glancing in some galleries in order to get to Monet’s Water Lilies.

Me and my host sisters in the Kusama exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Me and my host sisters in the Kusama exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Other museums I visited brought out both personalities. While in Denmark I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art with my visiting host family. Majority of my time there I was an explorer, hungrily consuming information. The Louisiana has an amazing collection and while there I actually saw a lot of works I later learned about in my Women, Art, and Identity course. However, I was also an experience-seeker as there was a well-known exhibit by Yayoi Kusama called Gleaming Lights of the Souls. In that moment I had to see it just to see it and have that experience – it was worth a bit of a wait, which turned out to be nothing based on the wait at the Hirshhorn Museum which had hours long wait lines.

I’ve found that one’s identity at a museum is very dependent on the circumstances of the visit. That’s why it is always beneficial for a museum to cater to multiple identities – which JMM does very well through its various educational programs, exhibits, and lectures.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




A Short Trip to Denmark

Posted on April 28th, 2017 by

Biking around Copenhagen

Biking around Copenhagen

I recently took a short vacation to Denmark where I spent time in Copenhagen, Northern Zealand and Aarhus. In between visiting castles, going on a canal boat tour, biking around the city and sampling lots of tasty dishes, I explored the country’s Jewish heritage. As I am writing this on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I thought I would also touch on some of the county’s WW2 history.

Inside the Danish Jewish Museum

Inside the Danish Jewish Museum

In Copenhagen, I stopped at the Danish Jewish Museum. The architecture by Daniel Libeskind (who also did the Jewish Museum in Berlin), was among the most striking parts of the museum. The space was a kind of labyrinth and the floors, walls and ceiling were slanted. I learned that Jews have lived in Denmark for 400 years. Denmark was the first Scandinavian country where Jews were permitted to settle. Jews were first invited by King Christian IV in the 1620s and they worked as merchants or as financiers and jewelers to the royal family. Similar to Maryland, Danish Jews only received full citizenship rights in 1849. In 1943, when the Danish Jews were about to be deported, the Danish Resistance Movement was instrumental in helping to evacuate nearly 8,000 Jews and their families from Denmark by sea in fishing boats to nearby neutral Sweden. While 500 Jews were taken to Thersienstadt concentration camp, Danish authorities often interceded upon their behalf and ordinary Danes protected the property of their Jewish neighbors while they were gone.

Danish fisherman ferry Jews to safety in Sweeden 1943 . Via USHMM.

Danish fisherman ferry Jews to safety in Sweeden 1943 . Via USHMM.

Since the war, the population has rebounded. Despite recent episodes of anti-Semitism, the Jewish population of Denmark remains at approximately 6,400.Later in my trip, I took the train up the coast to visit the Louisanna Art Museum  and Kronsborg Castle.  These were near several of the towns where Jews were smuggled on fishing boats across to nearby Sweden in 1943. I visited around the time of Passover so when I looked out over the water towards Sweden, it made me realize that the Danish Jews also had an exodus to escape a different kind of oppressor as they ferried across the Oresund strait towards freedom. Back in Copenhagen, I explored the historic center where I walked past the Great Synagogue, dating from 1833, which is the main synagogue of the Jewish community in Copenhagen. It is built in the semi-oriental classical style with mixtures of Greek, Roman and Egyptian elements.

The Occupation Museum

The Occupation Museum

The next day, I took the train to Aarhus where I toured the Occupation Museum which is dedicated to the history of the town during the occupation by the Germans in World War 2. The building served as the headquarters for the Gestapo headquarters during the war and as a place of interrogation and torture. I was interested in learning about the resistance to the Nazis in Aarhus, like a radio used to secretly communicate with England.

Throughout my trip, I thought back to our Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust and Humanity exhibit. While many perished in the Holocaust, it was refreshing to hear some of the stories of ordinary Danes who stood up to the Nazis and as a country ended up saving the majority of Danish Jews from Nazi persecution.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland