Recognizing and Responding to Injustice: Using the Lessons of the Holocaust as a Tool for Combating Contemporary Intolerance in Our Communities Today

Posted on August 24th, 2015 by

During my summer internship at the JMM, I had the opportunity to work on a pop-up exhibit in connection with the JMM’s Annual Summer Teachers Institute that focuses on best practices in Holocaust Education. After I learned how to use the museum software Past Perfect and learned about the JMM’s extensive collections, I was inspired to develop an exhibit.  The exhibit focuses on recognizing and responding to injustices in our community. It relates to the 2015 Summer Teachers Institute’s theme: Auschwitz 70 Years Later, What have we Learned? I wanted to put some of the JMM’s collections on display and give teachers an opportunity to see what objects and materials we have in the collections that relate to topics they are teaching about the Holocaust in their classrooms.

Falicia stands in front of the lobby display she created.

Telling the teachers about my exhibit.

In recent years there have been many instances of injustices in our communities: locally, nationally, and worldwide. My hope is that by examining injustices during the Holocaust we can be inspired to recognize and respond to injustices in our communities today. I encouraged the teachers to reflect on this question: How can we teach our students to recognize and become “upstanders” or activists against injustices in our communities and society?

The exhibit consisted of photographs, objects, and documents about the Holocaust. Preparing for the exhibit was a lot more complex than I originally thought it would be. Some of the objects in the exhibit include: pieces of a chandelier from a desecrated synagogue during Kristallnacht, and an uncut Star of David.  The exhibit also included archival materials…

Mass Meeting Flyer

This is a Mass Meeting flyer announcing a meeting for Jewish people in Baltimore to learn about what was happening to the European Jews.

Baltimore Jewish Council booklet

The Baltimore Jewish Council booklet was established in 1939 to create a united front against Anti-semitism during World War II and provide resources on Jewish issues.

These are pictures of the Nazi and Confederate flags to show how flags represent different things to people, and can have painful associations and connections to injustices.

These are pictures of the Nazi and Confederate flags to show how flags represent different things to people, and can have painful associations and connections to injustices.

I had a lot of support from several staff members and interns including: Ilene, Joanna, Deborah, Karen, and collections intern Kaleigh who helped me pick appropriate objects, reviewed my labels, and helped me with the installation process. I really felt like I had the support of the staff in developing my first exhibit.

Falicia and Collections Manager Joanna in the library cutting out exhibit text.

Joanna and I are cutting out texts for the exhibit.

Falicia arranging the objects in the display case.

And here I am arranging the objects in the display case.

When I installed the exhibit I was not sure how many people would be able to see it and what they would think. On Monday August 3rd over 30 teachers came to the museum for the Summer Teachers Institute. Ilene told them about my exhibit and in between workshops educators came and looked at my exhibit.

Page of handwritten comments about the display.

Teachers wrote comments about the exhibit.

I enjoyed telling the teachers about my exhibit. It was also great to hear some of the conversations they had about the exhibit and the connections they were making about injustices of the Holocaust and forms of injustice they see today. It was great to hear comments and dialogue between the teachers about what was in the exhibit and many of them were interested in seeing what else we had in our collections.

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

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The Alliterative Adventures of an Archivist and her Assistant

Posted on August 19th, 2015 by

While doing background research for our current exhibit Cinema Judaica, I came across a surprising number of photos in our collections showing Hollywood stars in and around Baltimore.  Most of these made obvious sense: people who owned homes nearby, or who were in town to raise funds for Israel Bonds or promote a film. One photo in particular was a little harder to parse, however: a publicity shot of Pearl White, silent movie star.

Headshot of actress pearl white.

Pearl White, 1916. Donated by Richard Millhauser, JMM 1995.88.27

In the 1910s, Miss White (1889-1938) was the daredevil heroine of film serials with fabulous titles like “The Perils of Pauline” and “The Exploits of Elaine.” You know the film cliché of a distressed damsel tied to the railroad tracks, cowering from a mustachioed, black-hatted villain? Though this specific trope is more common in later cartoons and spoofs than it ever was during the silent era, the broader notion of action-packed, anything-goes filmmaking in the 1910s and ‘20s is thanks in part to Miss White – who was famous for doing her own stunts – and her endangered-heroine films, including the occasional stint on a railroad tie. Please enjoy this thrilling advertisement for “The Fatal Ring” (1917):

Movie poster for The Fatal Ring

So many thrills! “The Fatal Ring” by Pathé Exchange (film) – Internet Archive. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

…But back to our collections, and the reasons Miss White appears in them.  As best I can tell from published material, such as her autobiography, Miss White was not Jewish, nor was she from Maryland.  What’s she doing in my archives?

With internet research, a field trip to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the assistance of intern Kaleigh, the question was easily solved. To start with, the back of our photograph is inscribed in pencil, “To Mr. David Millhauser – The man who got my life history – Sincerely, Pearl White – in Baltimore July 3 ‘16”.

Handwritten note on back of photograph.

Reverse of JMM 1995.88.27

David Millhauser (1892-1992) worked as a reporter for the Baltimore American.  Bits and pieces in our collections indicate that he covered political and industrial news around the city.  For example, here’s his U.S. Customs “Pass to Piers, Waterfront or Vessel” from 1918, listing his occupation as “newspaper reporter” and his employer as C.C. Fulton Co., the owner of the American.

Scan of customs passport

Donated by Richard Millhauser. JMM 1991.133.1

Pearl White filmed a now-lost movie, “Mayblossom,” at Carrollton Hall (Howard County, Maryland) in 1916.  On July 3rd of that year, she was photographed and interviewed at Baltimore’s Hotel Kernan by unnamed representatives of the Baltimore American; her photo appeared in the paper on July 4th, and a longer interview was published on July 9th.

Scan of newspaper image of Pearl White.

“Popular Movie Actress Here. Miss Pearl White, the daring and popular Pathé star, who is in Baltimore to take the leading role in a picture to be staged here. The photograph was taken in front of the Hotel Kernan yesterday afternoon by a member of the Art Department of The American.” From The Baltimore American, July 4, 1916, accessed at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Though the July 9th article – which consists almost entirely of Miss White’s own words, detailing her poverty-stricken background, her adventurous career, and her refusal to divulge her age – is unattributed, the source interview on July 3rd coincides neatly with the date noted on the photo given to Millhauser; unless there was some other way he elicited her life story on a Monday in Baltimore, I presume that he was the American’s interviewer.

Was a chat with an actress something of a departure from Millhauser’s regular beat? Based on the cursory nature of the article’s descriptions – Miss White is noted simply as “wearing a big blue hat fastened under her chin with a rubber band” – I’m inclined to think this kind of gossipy publicity piece wasn’t really in the author’s line. We’ll have to do some more research in the American’s archives to find out for sure… but in the meantime, there is one more connection to be made with Baltimore’s movie history.  In the 1910s David’s father Moses Millhauser owned the Elektra, a movie theater on North Gay Street in Baltimore.  The whole family, including David, took part in the theater’s operation, from managing the lobby to providing voiceovers for the silent films on the screen. Perhaps this connection is what garnered Millhauser the assignment of interviewing one of the most popular movie stars of the day. Whatever the reason, thankfully he held on to the personalized photo for many years, until it eventually made its way to our archives – providing just a hint of adventure and glamour to those who stumble upon it.

Entrance of the Cinema Judaica exhibit

The fanciful façade of Moses Millhauser’s Elektra Theater greets visitors to “Cinema Judaica”, open through September 6, 2015 at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Photo by Will Kirk.

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

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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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