JMM Insights: Stitching Things Together

Posted on July 19th, 2019 by

It’s all in the timing!  Coordinating exhibit schedules is a task in itself, and when two exhibits occupy the same gallery this can be tricky. This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church who will keep the story of Fashion Statement going through mid-September (with a little timely help from our friends). Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!

The Feldman Gallery currently holds two separate, but related exhibits: Fashion Statement, created by the JMM, and Stitching History from the Holocaust, created by the Jewish Museum Milwaukee (The other JMM!). We’ve been humbled and grateful for the positive attention these two exhibits have garnered since we opened them in early April (and even before!)

JMore reported on the fact that we would be displaying Gil Sandler’s porkpie hat way back in August of 2018. We were frontpage news for the JewishTimes. JMore named the exhibit a Top Event Pick for April 2019 and went on to dive deep in the whys and hows of the two exhibits with a feature story.

WJZ came to see us twice. Once in their “Coffee With” segment in May and then again for a morning segment on June 23, the day of the Jonestown Festival. Marvin joined his counterpart from the American Visionary Art Museum for an appearance on WYPR’s Midday with Tom Hall. Midday at the Museums discussed the ways the two museums address the Holocaust through textiles in current exhibits.

Attention from the press is amazing. As important is the attention we get from our educator partners. We especially love it when the exhibit in the gallery and students’ experiences in our historic synagogues work together to create discoveries and memories. A few highlights from our teachers, include:

“I just want to thank you again for the field trip yesterday to the museum.  The students were engaged and excited about what they learned and saw.  The amount of time was just perfect.  The activities were so appropriate, and your staff was wonderful and patient.”

“The students and parents all talked about how much they enjoyed their time at the museum.  The students said that they liked learning out the old clothing, the bathing rituals, the synagogue, the Old Testament scrolls, the arc in the synagogue, and the history of the building.  It has been a week and a half, and they still remember a ton!” 

Splitting the gallery the way we did for Fashion Statement and Stitching History from the Holocaust is a great way to maximize our use of the space. It allowed us to get all of this great attention, and share even more stories with our visitors … but what happens when one of those exhibits needs to close sooner than the other?

Stitching History will be closing here on August 5th (so if you haven’t yet had the chance to see it, make your plans now!); after a brief rest, it will go on display again at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida. That leaves us with a slice of gallery to fill until September 15th, when Fashion Statement closes in its turn and we begin to prepare the gallery for Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling. As we have done often during this clothing-focused year, we’ve turned to Stevenson University and the Stitching Maryland Together project for assistance.

Stevenson’s design students were a tremendous help with our Fashion Statement interactives.

We were also delighted to be part of the Stitching Maryland Together short documentary film project, which premiered at Expedition I, the fashion design school’s gala runway show and senior showcase held May 4, 2019 at Ram’s Head Live. A few members of the JMM staff took the opportunity to attend the event, and – speaking for myself, at least – were awed by the talent and skill displayed by these students, from the fashion collections to the documentary to the logistics of pulling off an event of this scale.

We’ve offered the use of our slice-of-gallery to the fashion department at Stevenson, and while we don’t know yet quite what that will look like – we’re hoping to get some of the clothing featured during the runway show itself! – keep your eyes open for more information on our continued collaboration with these talented young men and women.


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One Month Update: What I’ve Learned in My First Four Weeks as a JMM Intern

Posted on June 28th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Hannah Balik. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

As my fourth week at the Jewish Museum of Maryland comes to a close, I think that it is time for some reflection. I have done so much and learned so much during this internship so far. One of my favorite parts of interning at the Jewish Museum this summer has been learning about the amazing and rich Jewish history that Baltimore has. I am originally from New York, a place with its own diverse and beautiful Jewish life and history. Going to school at Goucher College in Towson for four years gave me a connection to the Baltimore area, but I knew little about the Jewish community here and its rich history. Since starting at the JMM, I have been learning all about the Baltimore Jewish community’s over one-hundred-and-fifty-year long history in the Jonestown neighborhood. Getting to experience the Jonestown neighborhood and learn about all the history that took place under my feet has helped me feel more connected to Baltimore.

One of the rare books we were able to view at the Walters.

This learning has been helped by the museum trips we have been taking as an intern group. So far, we have gone to the Walters Museum, where we had the opportunity to see some rare books. We also went to the Star Spangled Banner Flag House, which was so interesting, as I hadn’t previously known the connection between Baltimore, the American flag, and our National Anthem. We also had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting at the Baltimore National Heritage Area office, which perhaps was the best look at what it means to be a museum professional – lots of meetings with other museum professionals.

Being an education and programming intern, I have been working on a lot of projects. One of the projects I have been working on is revamping the educational interactive pieces that are in the Lloyd Street Synagogue lower floor exhibit. This has been a really fun project, and I have the opportunity to create an educational game that will hopefully be used in school group tours in the future. I’ve also been creating, along with the other Education intern, Ariella, educator’s guides for Jews in Space, an exhibit that is coming to the JMM in this spring. These educator guides aim to help teachers in Jewish schools as well as public and non-Jewish private schools to prepare their students for the exhibit and help them best connect the information learned at the museum to their normal lessons. I learned a lot researching that exhibit, including the fact that the Vulcan salute from Star Trek has its origins in an ancient Jewish ritual. I also learned about Judith Resnik, the first Jewish American and Jewish woman in space, who sadly perished in the Challenger disaster. I loved learning about her and her connection to Maryland- she earned her PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland. Learning small details like that is what makes research really fun and interesting for me.

I have also been working on programming for the Scrap Yard exhibit, an original JMM exhibit which opens this fall. I have learned so much about garbage, which is actually much more interesting than it sounds! I won’t bore you with the trashy details, but the scrap industry was huge in Baltimore for a long time, and many people earned a lot of money through the business. One research nugget I found in my Scrap Yard research is the philanthropy work of Bernard Schapiro. Bernard immigrated to Baltimore when he was seven, and left school when he was 14 to work in his family’s rag scrap business. In 1918, when Bernard was 19, he and his brother founded Solomon Schapiro and Sons, a rag recycling business they operated alongside their father and later, their other brother. Learning about the scrap business was interesting enough, but what truly interested me when researching Bernard was his dedication to philanthropy.

Moving bales of rags, Shapiro Company, Baltimore, MD 1942.

In 1979, he founded People Encouraging People, or PEP, a program which works in conjunction with Sinai Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry to help people transition out of psychiatric institutions. They offer clinical services, housing, workforce development, services for those who are homeless, and recover services for those in need. Bernard Schapiro also founded Schapiro Training and Employment Program Inc, or STEP in 1986, which aims to give new beginnings to a highly stigmatized group of people: those with mental illness and psychiatric disabilities. Both of these institutions are still around in Baltimore and are helping people every day. It’s easy to forget that the people we study were real people, and not just one thing that they did. Bernard earned his way through scrap, as many other immigrants in Baltimore and around the country did, but he took his money and put it back in the community, which is beautiful.

I’ve already learned so much thus far in this internship.

Research nuggets are just the beginning. I have the knowledge and ability to lead museum visitors through the entire museum: I can sell them an admission ticket, give them a tour of our current exhibits, including the Lloyd Street Synagogue, and then I can sell them a “Oy Vey” magnet at the gift shop. I’ve also learned about museum accessibility, museum evaluations, different databases common in small museums, and other vital things for a career in museums. Not only am I learning all of this valuable information, but I get to go on cool field trips also! This first month has been a great experience, and I have learned a lot of invaluable information about what it means to be a museum professional. I am very excited to see where the next six weeks of this internship takes me.


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Outreach Within the Local Community

Posted on June 24th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Megan Orbach. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

The topic that I have chosen to write about in my first in depth blog post is Museums and community outreach in all its forms. Prior to beginning my internship at the JMM, I understood the importance of community outreach as far as donations and support go, to keep non-profit organizations, such as JMM, functioning. However, after starting and being here for a few weeks I have been privileged to learn about more ways that a museum can participate in outreach within the local community.

On one of my first days of my internship I was given the opportunity to observe a program that was held at the museum with two Baltimore city public schools. This program gave students the platform to tell stories from their lives. The students did this by making a video slideshow with the help of their teachers that would be presented to other students in their classes and to students of different schools. I got to experience watching two classes’ stories. These stories told of how students met their best friends to how they are dealing with the loss of a parent. Some of the students remarked that they liked the project because they felt that it finally gave them a voice. On the other hand, some liked it because it allowed them to see how similar others’ stories could be to theirs and in turn, sparked the potential for new friendships.

Students from Morrell Park and Graceland Park participated in Personal Stories: PROJECTED, coming together to share their short films with each other.

I was pleasantly surprised by this program because of the impact I saw it had made on students just by observing one session. Further, as a younger student myself, I had been on field trips to various museums but I had never participated in any programs with both my teachers and museum educators like the one I observed.

Museums exist to educate their guests and to tell stories. I have realized since starting my internship that museums also exist to reach out to their local communities and to help make a difference. I read an article written by Caldor Zwicky who is an assistant director at the MoMA for teen and community partnerships. Zwicky details his firsthand experiences working with local students through art classes and school visits. He also discusses an art program, likely similar to the story telling program at JMM, in which he recalls noticing the “yearning” of students to be paid attention to. Just like at JMM where students visited and participated in a project that helped them to find their voice, Zwicky’s art program encouraged the students he worked with to find theirs. He also told of his own participation in an art class at a museum when he was younger, recalling that it changed his academic and general life for the better, so much so that it contributed to his working at a museum today.

Calder Zwicky in 2016, working on an art project in association with his work at the MoMA.

All the programming that JMM does with local schools and other organizations in the community makes me even more proud to be an intern here. Of course, these programs are able to be in existence because of generous donations from community members and this allows me to see, once again, the importance of fundraising/development (the department for which I intern) and its essential role in making a difference.

As someone who is looking to work for a non-profit organization one day, potentially a museum, I am so appreciative of being afforded the opportunity to observe programs like the one I did and to see how much of an impact they can make.

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