Posted on May 9th, 2014 by Rachel
Since the successful opening of Project Mah Jongg, The Education and Programs Department has planned some wonderful programming for adults in connection with the exhibit. We’re particularly excited for our Mother’s Day Mah Jongg Madness event this Sunday and our upcoming “The Art of Mah Jongg” talk with Robert Mintz, chief curator at The Walters Art Gallery on Sunday June 8th.
In addition to our Sunday programs we have been delighted to welcome a charming stream of mah jongg mavens to the Museum. These groups of ladies are coming down to the JMM during our early morning opening hours; often armed with their own mahj sets and accoutrements for play (if you’re looking for a few mah jongg themed items yourself, don’t worry, our museum shop has got you covered!). It seems that the ladies are making the JMM a destination for the day (something we highly recommend). The first order of the day, of course, is visiting our special exhibit Project Mah Jongg; then it’s a leisurely browse through the Museum shop and a visit to the neighborhood for lunch only to head back to the lobby for some intense game play, and then finish up the day taking advantage of the synagogue tours – a full day indeed!
Talmudic Academy 2014
While these lovely ladies are a natural audience for all things mah jongg, the challenge of the exhibit for our department was how to present Project Mah Jongg to school groups? Learning to play mah jongg can be challenging and we couldn’t actually teach a group of students how to play the game in twenty minutes. Mah jongg takes practice to really understand the strategies and even just learning the different symbols on the tiles takes time. We knew we needed to develop an experiential learning opportunity – a way for students to engage and apply academic understandings through hands-on experience, while simultaneously learning new information about the world around them.
Younger students learning at play.
For inspiration, we turned to the mah jongg handbook. We started by looking for key words that described the game, keeping in mind that students from third to twelfth grade would need to understand. Success! First we had to familiarize students with the building blocks of the game: the tiles! So we concentrated on the basic symbols – bams, craks, dots and jokers. Then we tackled math concepts: doubles, triples, quads and quints, consecutive, sequence – a perfect way to fuse classroom learning with the basics of how to win at mah jongg. From there we developed a hands-on experience where the students could actually play a modified version of the game and apply simple math strategies. Younger students were given Mah Jongg Mats where players take turns picking tiles, working to complete their mats using the new math concepts that were introduced earlier. Older students were given a modified card for mah jongg play and used rules similar to the card game “rummy,” using the mah jongg tiles to mimic the different types of hands for play on the “card.” In this way we elevated game playing into an exercise in set theory and critical thinking skills.
Our older students are equally fascinated!
Project Mah Jongg really pushed us to think creatively with our educational activities and we were nervous – would the students understand? Would they be engaged and enjoy playing the modified version of the game? Well, we are excited to report that the students and their teachers have all commented how much fun Mah Jongg is! Both versions of the game are proving to be popular – most students really seem to enjoy playing with their friends. All of our teacher evaluations have indicated a positive feedback for the exhibits and the engaging learning activities connected to our exhibits. The teachers for both the younger and older grades have even inquired as to where they can obtain sets to bring back to the classroom!
A blog post by Ilene Dackman-Alon, Education Director. To read more posts from Ilene, click here.
Posted on February 10th, 2014 by Rachel
The most exciting part about visiting a museum is getting to view various artifacts within the exhibits, especially if the museum is featuring a new one. I myself had only been on the outside, until this January when I was asked to help break the featured exhibit down here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
Forest and Jobi prepare packaging.
The museum currently has an exhibit called “Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War”. But as spring rolls around, so will new artifacts, and the process of packing up the show, in someways is as thrilling as seeing it as a visitor.
To start, there had to be photos taken of every artifact. These photos were then color coded based on their lenders. Lenders were a variation of individuals, museums, and historical societies.
The Color Code List
Once each photo was matched to the lender, I then filed the loan form for each artifact with its picture. What sounds like slow work, was actually informing. I was able to read the descriptions and learn a little more about the artifacts and the Jewish involvement in the Civil War as well.
Following this, Jobi and I determined how the artifacts would be returned to their lenders. We organized and labeled boxes, for packaging, to be sure that everything was returned to it’s original owner. There was a lot of measuring and labeling to do, but I was able to check out artifacts that were not put into the exhibit. This was a really cool advantage.
The last step of course, is to take the actual artifacts down, pack them up, and send them back! This of course will not happen until the exhibit is officially over. So before the final step is taken, be sure to stop by the museum and check out “Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War”, which ends February 27th at 5 pm.
A blog post by Collections Intern Forest Fleisher. To read more posts by interns, click HERE. If you are interested in interning at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, you can find open internship opportunities HERE.
Posted on February 5th, 2014 by Rachel
At the end of this month we say good-bye to Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. I, for one, will be sad to see it go. I’ve not only enjoyed the exhibit and the chance to work with Karen and Todd on our “Maryland edition”, but also the outstanding programs that Trillion put together and the fun we’ve had with our volunteer docents and museum educators on the special tours.
Closing February 27th!
I’ve gained dozens of new insights over the last few months but the one that sticks with me is actually about “saying good-bye”.
When Ross Kelbaugh came to speak at JMM at the beginning of December, he spoke about the boom in photography in Baltimore at the start of the Civil War (and the involvement of members of the Jewish community like the Bendann brothers and David Bacharach in this new “high tech” industry). As many as 50 photo studios were doing business here in 1861. Why the boom? Well one of the causes that Kelbaugh points to is a technological innovation know as cartes de visite. Just before the start of the war, photographers perfected the technique of printing multiple copies of playing card-sized images to card stock. These images were affordable, even for people of modest means and could be easily slipped into the mail for loved ones. You can imagine that soldiers sent to staging areas, like Baltimore, were very anxious to share pictures of themselves in uniform with their loved ones and images of nearby battlefields could bring the war home in a way that was unthinkable just 10 years earlier. This keen interest fueled the photography craze (more about this can be found in a New York Times’ “Disunion” column by Andrea Volpe from August 6, 2013).
School students visit Passages Through the Fire.
I look at this as a first revolution in the concept of “away”. For thousands of years, when husbands and sons went off to affairs of war or commerce, there was an absolute loss of connection. Their wives, children and siblings in most cases had only their memories to rely on (or perhaps an old portrait) to invoke the image of the person who was truly “away”. But the Civil War chipped away at the concept that saying good-bye completely severed visual contact with those who were away.
Today, we’ve experienced a second revolution in “away”. With Skype, Face Time, Facebook and more, we almost never completely lose visual contact with those who have gone away, whether they are at summer camp or at a base 10,000 miles from home. The technology has changed what it means to take leave and endure separation.
All this is not to say that we have solved the problems of being apart. Images can be a poor substitute for human contact. But nothing ever leaves us as completely as it once did, and we’ll have the pictures of the Civil War exhibit on our website to prove it.
(editor’s note: Passages Through the Fire closes on February 27th. Due to the fragile nature of the artifacts this will be the end of the exhibit tour, everything will be returned to the lenders. If you haven’t seen it yet, we encourage you to take advantage of your last opportunity)
A blog post by executive director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts by Marvin, click HERE.