Fragments of Movie Posters; Or, Why Collections Managers Like to Save Things

Posted on July 14th, 2015 by

One lovely thing about social media is that it gives me the opportunity to talk about artifacts that didn’t quite make the grade for an exhibit. Though we did not have any of our own movie posters to add to Cinema Judaica, researching the loaned posters reminded me of these two items in our collections: fragments of movie posters, put to a new use some 80 years ago.

Two movie poster fragments, printed on cardboard. Donated by Bernard Levin, 2014.44.2, 2014.44.4

Two movie poster fragments, printed on cardboard. Donated by Bernard Levin, 2014.44.2, 2014.44.4

First, a little background. Bernard “Bucky” Levin was born in 1911 to Max and Sarah Levin, Latvian immigrants who settled on E. Baltimore Street in Butcher Hill. Max went into the real estate business, and oldest son Bernard attended City College and the University of Maryland Pharmacy School, graduating with his pharmacist degree in 1933.

Like many of us do, Bernard Levin proudly framed his diplomas and certificates for display. As best I can tell, he framed most of them himself. By the time the items came to us at the JMM, they were in poor condition and we decided the papers could be best preserved if they were taken out of their frames. Sometimes this process reveals hidden bits of information, and in this case I discovered two entertaining, if not exactly earth-shattering, surprises.

Front and back of Bernard Levin’s 1933 First Aid certification, in original frame. Donated by Bernard Levin, 2014.44.2

Front and back of Bernard Levin’s 1933 First Aid certification, in original frame. Donated by Bernard Levin, 2014.44.2

The 1933 Red Cross First Aid Certificate (shown above) was supported in its frame by a corner of a cardboard window card for the 1930 Wheeler and Woolsey comedy “Hook, Line and Sinker,” while a 1933 Certificate of Honor from the University of Maryland Pharmacy School was backed with a piece of window card advertising the 1933 horror film “Murders in the Zoo.”  Both movies opened at Keith’s, a theater at Lexington and Park.

Researching a corner of a poster is a little trickier than when you have the whole thing, but thanks to the internet, and the many poster collectors who make use of it, I was able to identify the movies. (Well, “Murders in the Zoo” was pretty easy, since the title is right there; but Wheeler and Woolsey made a lot of pictures.) More useful internet searching, this time using the Baltimore Sun archives via the Baltimore County Public Library, told me where these films showed in the city. Ancestry.com gave me a few additional hints about the Levin family home and careers. But that’s where the magical internet stopped its assistance; I haven’t been able to prove my pet theory, which is that student Bernard had a part-time job at Keith’s, and he snagged some leftover publicity material for his framing project.  Or perhaps he, or another friend or family member, was an avid moviegoer and incipient collector.  If anyone remembers Mr. Levin – or worked at Keith’s – and can shed some light, please let me know!

Here’s what the full posters look like. Window cards were designed with blank space at the top, where theaters could post showtimes (as has been done for “Hook, Line and Sinker” here). What I took to be a villainous eyeball in the corner of the Wheeler and Woosley fragment proved to be simply a lecherous eyeball, aimed at Dorothy Lee; hmmm.  And I must point out that “Murders in the Zoo” actress Kathleen Burke was, for good or ill, billed as “The Panther Woman.” Images from emovieposter.com and moviepostershop.com.

Here’s what the full posters look like. Window cards were designed with blank space at the top, where theaters could post showtimes (as has been done for “Hook, Line and Sinker” here). What I took to be a villainous eyeball in the corner of the Wheeler and Woosley fragment proved to be simply a lecherous eyeball, aimed at Dorothy Lee; hmmm. And I must point out that “Murders in the Zoo” actress Kathleen Burke was, for good or ill, billed as “The Panther Woman.” Images from emovieposter.com and moviepostershop.com.

In most circumstances, these leftover, recycled posters would be little more than a sidenote in our collections catalog; after all, the reason we accepted the certificates was to help tell the story of Mr. Levin’s education and career, not his skill in amateur framing.  Thanks to the fragments’ condition (and the fact that the represented movies did not fit into the theme of our exhibit), they did not end up on display in “Cinema Judaica.” Nonetheless, they represent another way to show the connections between movies, theaters, and Maryland audiences, on an individual scale. Sometimes the historical sidenotes prove to be more interesting than you expect.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

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It’s interesting to me; is it interesting to you?

Posted on July 9th, 2015 by

What do people find interesting? This is what I thought about as I scrolled through the 50 page exhibit script, looking for the best items.  Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, opening in Spring 2016, will be a traveling exhibit. This means that it will start here at its “home institution” and then it will travel to other museums for display. But first, other museums need to agree to host the exhibit, and to do this they will look at a marketing package which includes a list of its best objects, photos, and documents. This list is what I worked on.

Many questions popped up as I determined which items were the “best”. Would people other than me find this interesting? Does it sort of summarize the section of the exhibit that it is in? And is it instantly visually interesting, or would someone need to know the context of the item to understand it? A good number of items in the exhibit will also be loans from other institutions, so I had to make sure we were actually on track for a successful loan before I added it to my “best objects” list.

So what did I choose? 36 objects, items, and documents out of the 400 some items in the exhibit. The items work together to capture the big idea of the exhibit as well as being just plain interesting! The items described below are three of my personal favorites.

Ma’aseh Tuviyya, Tobias Cohen, 1708, Germany National Library of Medicine

Ma’aseh Tuviyya, Tobias Cohen, 1708, Germany
National Library of Medicine

This image is from an early 18th century book about medical practices. Written in Hebrew, and published in Germany, it provides a fascinating look into how medicine and the human body were viewed in the past. This specific image is a metaphor between the human body and a house. Intricately detailed, one can see the different rooms of the house on the right that symbolize parts of the body.

JMM 1991.35.24

JMM 1991.35.24

This is quite possibly the strangest piece in the exhibit, a ring made with vulcanized rubber and a porcelain molar. It was made by Edmund Kahn for a marriage proposal to Gertrude Fried in 1904. Being a student in dental school, he could not afford a ring. He created this interesting thing from things he found in the lab, and it is without a doubt very strange. But it shows more than just a man’s craft skills, it gives a view into life into what dental school was like for students.

JMM 1995.151.15

JMM 1995.151.15

When Sinai Hospital in Baltimore was built, it was primarily a Jewish institution. However, it was obvious that it would need to cater to other cultures in order to survive. So these foreign language phrase cards were made to help with this diversity. The hospital staff could use these phrase cards to communicate with non-English speaking patients, resulting in a hospital that was truly for “everybody”.

These three items stood out to me among the 400 some items in the upcoming exhibit. They are visually interesting and vital to the understanding of the exhibit. Hopefully other institutions will see this too and want to host the exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America.

SophiaA blog post by Exhibitions Intern Sophia Brocenos. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

 

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A Full Museum: The Grand Opening of Cinema Judaica

Posted on July 6th, 2015 by

On Thursday, July 2nd the Jewish Museum of Maryland opened the doors of its new traveling exhibit: Cinema Judaica! 130 members and visitors came to see the new exhibit, enjoying signature 1950s cocktails, sparkling wine, and kosher refreshments before the presentation. It was a fun event for all and gave museum members an opportunity to unwind at the museum. The event helped me learn about what is involved in preparing for a big event.

Members of the museum and special guests enjoy cocktails and kosher refreshments.

Members of the museum and special guests enjoy cocktails and kosher refreshments.

Education and Programming Intern Eden serves drinks.

Education and Programming Intern Eden serves drinks.

Visitors have a conversation about the film posters in the exhibit.

Visitors have a conversation about the film posters in the exhibit.

After the special cocktail hour, Ken Sutak, author of the book Cinema Judaica, gave a fascinating lecture titled How Harry Warner, Ernst Toller, and Alvin York Helped Win ‘The Great Debate’ for American Interventionists. I enjoyed learning about how the movie posters influenced public opinion and were used to help the US decide to intervene in World War II. The leaders Harry Warner, Ernest Toller, and Alvin York went against popular opinion in Hollywood and developed films like A Nazi Spy which played a role in getting America to intervene in WWII. There was also a book signing after the presentation.

Ken Sutak, author and curator of Cinema Judaica talks about  “The Great Debate.”

Ken Sutak, author and curator of Cinema Judaica talks about “The Great Debate.” Photo by Will Kirk.

 Collections Intern Kaleigh Ratliff, and Education and Programming Intern Falicia Eddy encourage visitors to vote for, and take pictures by their favorite poster.

Collections Intern Kaleigh Ratliff, and Education and Programming Intern Falicia Eddy encourage visitors to vote for, and take pictures by their favorite poster.

Visitors will have plenty more opportunities to see the exhibit – though don’t wait too long as Cinema Judaica closes on September 6, 2015! The museum has planned several other great events around the exhibit including free outdoor film screenings: The Great Dictator on August 9th, and Gentleman’s Agreement on August 23rd.

Can’t wait until August? On Sunday, July 12th come to our Flickering Treasures talk at 1pm with photographer Amy Davis to learn about the history of Baltimore’s own movie theaters!

Falicia EddyA blog post by Education and Programs Intern Falicia Eddy. To read  more posts from interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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