Museum Matters: May 2017

Posted on May 5th, 2017 by

Ilene Dackman-Alon leads Morrell Park EMS students through Remembering Auschwitz.

Ilene Dackman-Alon leads Morrell Park EMS students through Remembering Auschwitz.

When we began planning for our current exhibition, Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity, it was important to our staff that we develop an exhibit that didn’t just display a familiar narrative of Holocaust history but rather presented visitors with new insights about what it means to remember the events of the past today. As we move into the exhibit’s final weeks, it has been gratifying to see how the exhibit has resonated with visitors of all backgrounds (particularly with the hundreds of school children who have visited since March) and also by the many conversations that have been sparked through exhibit tours and related programs about how the lessons of the Holocaust inform our lives today.

If you haven’t had a chance yet to see the exhibit, I encourage you to visit in the next few weeks as the exhibit closes on May 29 (yes, we are open on Memorial Day!) There’s still plenty of time to participate in one of our wonderful programs taking place the next few weeks.  I would especially draw your attention to our Annual Meeting on May 25. In addition to welcoming a new class of board members, we will be hosting best-selling author, Steven Roberts whose timely talk We Are All Immigrants, We Are All Refugees connects the historical experience of Jewish immigration, including the experience of those fleeing Germany, to the plight of refugees today.

While the Remembering Auschwitz exhibit leaves us soon, JMM remains committed to Holocaust education and commemoration endures, ensuring that the stories of our local community of Holocaust survivors are not forgotten.

Programs:

May

Stories of Survival

Stories of Survival: Golda Kalib
Sunday, May 7 at 1:00pm
Buy Tickets Now

Born in Bodzentyn, Poland, Golda Kalib was very young at time of Nazi invasion. While initially hidden with a Christian family, she experienced the horrors of the Holocaust in a labor camp and Auschwitz. Hear her storiy in her own words.

Unexpected

The Unexpected Generation:
Polish Jews Discovering Their Roots, A Personal Story

Sunday, May 7 at 3:00pm
Speaker: Dr. Agi Legutko, Columbia University
Buy Tickets Now

Imagine discovering—as a teenager or young adult—that your parents or grandparents hid their identity for their (and your) safety. How would you feel? What would you do? Ever since the fall of Communism in Poland in 1989, when Jewish matters stopped being a taboo subject, more and more people have discovered their Jewish roots. Click here for more info.

Still from Steven

Tuesday Night Film Series
Steven
Tuesday, May 9th at 6:30pm
Speaker: Film Maker Jim Vogel
Buy Tickets Now

Steven is a video documentary  of the life of Steven Vogel, as narrated by Steven himself.  The video recollections describe life growing up in Budapest, Hungary in a religious Jewish home,  the experience of  seeing Nazi troops enter Budapest, Gestapo coming  to his home to arrest him and his mother and being taken to Auschwitz  in a cattle car where he and his mother  came face to face with Joseph Mengele.  The video describes his liberation and the cunning maneuvers that lead to Steven Vogel being the first Hungarian citizen to receive a US immigration visa  following the war.

Destination Unknown

Tuesday Night Film Series
Destination Unknown
Tuesday, May 16th at 6:30pm
Buy Tickets Now

Lessons of the Holocaust Today
Sunday, May 21st at 1:00pm
Buy Tickets Now

Reflections on Holocaust remembrance and commemoration.

JMM 2017 Annual Meeting

We Are All Immigrants

We Are All Immigrants

We Are All Immigrants, We Are All Refugees
Samuel Boltansky Memorial Keynote Speaker:
Steven Roberts, journalist and author
Thursday, May 25 at 6:30pm
FREE – Reserve Your Seat

Immigrants have provided a continuous source of vitality and ingenuity to this country since its founding. Steve Roberts, author of From Every End of This Earth, a study of 13 modern immigrant families, will tell that story.

JUNE

SAVE THE DATE!

Save the Date!

Save the Date!

Members Only:
Love, Laughter, and L’Chaim
A Celebration of Jewish Marriage in American Theater
Thursday Evening, June 15th
Presented by Center Stage and the JMM

Laughter and tears, sorrow and joy, salt and sugar: all the elements of ordinary life can be found in how American Jews have experienced marriage— from wooing and betrothal through the ceremonial celebration and on to the sometimes-bitter aftermath. Take a whirlwind tour through these highs and lows, in a dynamic hour-long excursion through some theatrical highlights from the past century. A special preview event for Jewish Museum of Maryland members!

Esther’s Place: the Shop at the Jewish Museum of Maryland

Mezuzahs, jewelry, and more!

Mother’s Day is right around the corner – stop in and pick up the perfect gift for all the mothers in your life!

 

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JMM Insights: Learning By Doing

Posted on April 21st, 2017 by

Want to listen to a pumping heart? Save the day at Ft. McHenry by removing ammunition from a stockade? Turn a pickle into a light bulb?

If you’ve visited JMM in the last few years, you might have done all of the above.  The opportunities to “learn by doing” continue this summer with our next exhibit, Just Married!: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland now under development.

As you might expect, this exhibit features wedding gowns, accessories, invitations, and even ketubahs that are more than 150 years old.  But in making this experience accessible to people of all ages and all learning styles it will also contain “interactive” experiences.  Despite the 21st century jargon in the name, interactives in museums date back more than a century.

In 1911, Jewish businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald took his 8 year-old son William to the Deutsches Museum in Munich.  There he saw something new in the museum world – instead of halls exclusively devoted to objects in cases, some of the exhibits had cranks and levers and pulleys.  These devices invited visitors not just to observe the scientific world but to understand it through participation. Rosenwald was so impressed with the impact of this new style of museum experience that he became determined to bring it back to America, to his hometown of Chicago – and so began the story of the Museum of Science and Industry, the nation’s largest science museum.

Over the course of the 20th century, interactives migrated from science museums to children’s museums and by the 1980s to natural history and history museums as well.  These exhibit units are sometimes characterized as “activities for kids,” but it is the experience of museum professionals that interactives receive as much of a workout from adults as children, if only vicariously (i.e. “Johnny, try pulling the crank first and then flipping the lever”).

In approaching the interactives for Just Married!: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland, we began, as always, with educational objectives…how do we transform the topic into a vehicle for inspiring in-depth exploration and critical reasoning?  What concepts and activities would fit our exhibit themes, while attracting visitors both young and old?  We came up with a mix of puzzles, tactile experiences, and audio rewards to engage the brain as well as the senses.

The meeple family tree

An important part of interactive planning is beta testing. Over the winter, we tested two of our activities, one on the public and one on the JMM staff.
Our seating chart puzzle, designed by our in-house game maven, involves a set of adorable but in-law challenged meeples [wondering what meeples are? (and no, the singular of “meeples” is not “merson”)].  Our meeple families: the color-coded Pinkerts and Greensteins, Silvermans and Goldbergs needs to be strategically seated to achieve a set of goals for the bride and groom.  In this way we hoped to transform a common problem into a 3-D logic puzzle – both entertaining and thought provoking.

A seating challenge!

We set a simple prototype in the JMM lobby and invited visitors to give it a try.  This gave us insight into what visitors found confusing – such as the fact that unlabeled meeples are indistinguishable (so who could say if cousin Steve was sitting where he should be?) We experimented with affixing tiny labels to the meeples, simplifying the game’s rules and clarifying how to reset the game board for the next player.  All of these small adjustments will contribute to successful interactive – a tool that promotes learning (and fun).

Curator Karen takes a crack at matching photos

Joanna’s match-the-photo puzzle was tested out on the staff in a slightly less formal manner (but with scorekeeping, which always adds to the fun). In this activity, players are asked to match the wedding and anniversary photos of several Maryland couples from various eras.  Our collections include some great images, thanks to generations of Marylanders celebrating the milestone anniversaries of parents and grandparents.  Eleven of our staff and volunteers gave the game a try; there were mixed results, score-wise (and yes, one person did successfully match all eight couples), but everyone found themselves engrossed in the challenge.

Marketing and Development Manager Rachel had a tough time as the inaugural tester

These trial games were invaluable.  In the case of the photos, Joanna learned that the original version – a scattering of sixteen photos from eight couples, with no indication as to which images were wedding and which were anniversary – was much too difficult for anyone who hadn’t been staring at the pictures for three days like she had.  A few tweaks to the set-up improved things considerably. Our goal is to make interactives challenging – but not frustrating, often a difficult “sweet spot” to find.Interactives are just one component in turning a space into an experience.  A strong interactive complements, but does not replace, memorable images or artifacts – but the right tools can transport the visitor from “watcher” to “doer” and give them a sense of personal ownership of an exhibit.

MarvinBlog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert (with assistance from Collections Manager Joanna Church). To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

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Living History and Beyond!

Posted on April 14th, 2017 by

Over the past 14 years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland has developed significant expertise in the creation of compelling living history characters, along with a national reputation for excellence in this medium.  In consultation with a team of professional historians, script writers, directors and actors, we have created historical performances based on extensive research.  These performances illuminate key themes about American Jewish history in an accessible and personal manner.  These interactive  performances incorporate reproductions of artifacts, photographs, and documents from the JMM collections.

Our first four living history characters

The JMM has created five living history characters, Ida Rehr, a Ukrainian immigrant who worked in the garment industry; Saul Bernstein, a Lithuanian peddler who became a professional artist;  Bessie Bluefeld, a Russian immigrant who started a renowned catering business;  and Mendes I. Cohen, veteran of the Battle of Baltimore, businessman, and Jewish adventurer.  Our latest character is Henrietta Szold, daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold and born in Baltimore in 1860, who premiered in September, 2016.  All five characters have performed around the region for students and adult audiences alike.

Natalie Pilcher with students from Western High School

A few weeks ago, the Henrietta Szold Living History character performed at Western High School in Baltimore City.  The education staff contacted the administration at the school about the possibility of having a performance at the school. Henrietta Szold graduated from Western Female High School in 1877 and in 1901 she became the first president of the Western High Alumni. There is a plaque in the school’s library that bears Szold’s name.

At the school-wide assembly over 960 students and teachers were in attendance. Following the performance, the students asked many questions to the actress that portrays Henrietta, Natalie Pilcher. The students were especially interested in learning about how she prepared for the Henrietta Szold role, and how she teaches acting and performance to area students throughout Baltimore City.

Following the successful Henrietta Szold living performance at Western High School, we started to think about the impact that all of our living history characters and performances have had on the community over the years. We examined our attendance statistics from FY14 to the present, and were quite pleased to see the reach that our living history characters have had on the community. I am certain you will also be quite impressed!

Ida Rehr
Over the past 12 years, the actress Katherine Lyons has engaged school groups with her wonderful portrayal of Ukrainian immigrant Ida Rehr.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 42 performances –to over 1864 audience members. (1,769 students/teachers and 95 attendees from adult groups)

Katherine Lyons as Ida Rehr

Mendes I. Cohen
Over the past 3 years, actor Grant Cloyd has engaged school and adult groups with his portrayal of Colonel Mendes I. Cohen.  Since July 1, 2013 he has given 20 performances as Mendes to over 890 audience members. (371 students/teachers and 519 attendees from adult groups)

Grant Cloyd as Colonel Mendes I. Cohen

Bessie Bluefeld
Over the past 4 years, actress Terry Nicholetti has engaged adult groups with her wonderful portrayal of Bessie Bluefeld.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 10 performances. (437 adult audience members)

Terry Nicholetti as Bessie Bluefeld

Henrietta Szold
Over the past 7 months, actor Natalie Pilcher has engaged school and adult groups with her portrayal of Henrietta Szold.  Since her debut she has given 13 performances to 1,737 audience members. (1,447 students/teachers and 290 attendees from adult groups)

Natalie Pilcher as Henrietta Szold standing next to her namesake.

The Henrietta Szold Living History Character was made possible through the generous support of the Kolker-Saxon-Hallock Family Foundation, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Educational opportunities were made possible by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated.

With all of the numbers combined our living history characters have performed a total number of 85 performances, seen by 4,928 audience members throughout the region since July 2013! By the end of this school year, it is highly likely that our living history program we will reach more than 5,000 audience members and beyond!

Our Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues.  To schedule a Living History performance or to learn more, please contact Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator, ghumphrey@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443.873.5167.

~Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

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