JMM Insights: Small Change

Posted on June 21st, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Executive Director Marvin Pinkert, with a behind-the-scenes look at an upcoming display. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


Most of our JMM Insights newsletters are dedicated to the major exhibits and program series that shape our calendar. But some of the most interesting projects we work on are small showcase exhibits that allow us to respond to targets of opportunity without the long lead times associated with feature shows. Our next showcase display, Redeemable: Baltimore’s $2 Bill and the Making of American Currency, opens July 7th and runs through August 11th.

The inspiration for this project was a phone call just a few months ago from a friend of the JMM in New York, Morris Offit.  He let me know that he had recently donated a $2 bill printed by the Continental Congress bearing the signature of Benjamin Levy to the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia (with the goal of strengthening the story of Jewish contributions to our war for Independence.  Benjamin Levy who came to Baltimore in 1773, is usually credited as being the first Jewish resident to permanently settle in this city.

This news reached us about the same time we were getting set to open Fashion Statement and triggered the thought that, of all the accessories we “wear,” money is perhaps the one whose design we most take for granted. We searched our collection for other artifacts that spoke to the connection between the appearance of currency and its perceived value , and found three other items that fit this category: a pair of bank notes designed by Baltimore artist Solomon Carvalho; a set of coins stamped by Civil War sutler, Lazarus Goldheim; and bank notes from the early 20th century signed by bank director Louis Kann.

We started asking ourselves “what gives money its value?” – a question raised by all four artifacts – “were they redeemable?” We realized that if we could borrow the $2 bill we could tell an engaging story about the emergence of American money and four members of the Baltimore Jewish community who participated in that history.

The Museum of the American Revolution accepted our loan request, and we quickly completed some preliminary research. We decided to time our opening of the showcase exhibit with the Sunday of July 4th weekend.

Another “small change” on the horizon is the virtual tour of the Anne Frank House to complement our Stitching History from the Holocaust exhibit on the first two Sundays in August. This will be our first experiment in using the new Oculus lenses that were donated to us this month.

Our next showcase exhibit will be a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Eddie’s of Roland Park, set to open on September 15.

So this summer when you come back for a second look at Fashion Statement or to attend one of the wonderful programs in our Recovery and Renewal: The Immigration Experience series, don’t forget to be on the lookout for small change.*


*and, speaking of change, a reminder: The Associated’s annual campaign “Change Begins Here” closes at the end of the month. JMM encourages you to support the organization that is our number one source of funds.


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Check the Label

Posted on April 19th, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Tracie Guy-Decker, deputy director. She’s sharing a behind-the-scenes look at one aspect of the development of our two newest exhibits, Fashion Statement and Stitching History from the Holocaust. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


When I was about 7, I really wanted Jordache jeans. It was the early eighties. They were twice the cost of the Wranglers, but they also brought a currency with them the Wranglers just didn’t have. The Wranglers might have fit, but I believed the Jordache would help me fit in.

Despite my first-grader experience with jeans, historically, clothing labels were usually hidden from everyone but the wearer. Their generally “hidden” status makes the importance of labels all the more remarkable. Clothing labels can carry a lot of weight – I don’t mean literal pounds, but rather intellectual, sociological, and emotional heft.

Labels are a way for designers and manufacturers to make their mark (literally) and for clothing wearers to assert their belongingness to social circles. This ubiquitous “artifact within the artifact”—and all the associations it brings with it—is a common thread between Fashion Statement and Stitching History From the Holocaust.

Our wonderful “Fashion Statement” logo, by Jeremy Hoffman of Ashton Design, was inspired by several of the local clothing labels in the JMM collections (for details, see the end of this post). From the stitched border to the swooping, elegant font, Jeremy captured the essence of a high-end dressmaker, tailor, or department store’s look, without directly copying any particular shop’s logo.

We worked with Jeremy and his team through several iterations to get to the final design. Both the JMM and the Ashton Design team looked and thought deeply about the implications of font choice, word placement and size, and the relationship between the words in the logo to each other. The images above may look incredibly similar, but to a designer’s eye, the tiniest details matter!

For the in-gallery version of the logo—the first thing you see as you enter the gallery—the Ashton team came up with the brilliant idea of actually stitching the letters. They designed a board with pre-drilled holes at the appropriate places to allow them to render their existing logo design in a thick thread. The effect is of a giant clothing label.

Our colleagues at the other JMM (Jewish Museum Milwaukee) and at the Costume Shop that created Hedwig Strnad’s designs for Stitching History From the Holocaust also approached their work with an understanding of the power of the clothing label.

As they poured their hearts and passion into the project of making Hedy’s designs real, the artists at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Costume Shop decided that the dresses needed a label. Regardless of how finished the dresses might look, they could not be complete without a label to identify their designer.

Hedy’s signature, found after several years of research into her story, was used to create her own label, one that—at least for these dresses—she sadly never achieved in reality.  Hedy’s label transforms a very personal element from one of the surviving letters and creates a brand identity out of it. When we see it applied it to the professional, stylish recreations of her designs, we are reminded both of the power and importance of the clothing label, and the talent and skill Hedy could have brought to the American fashion industry, had her story ended differently.

If you haven’t seen them, yet, we invite you to come and see Fashion Statement and Stitching History at the JMM. And whether you’ve seen them or not, try to pay attention to clothing labels for a few days. What reactions do you have when you see them in your own clothes or in the store? You might be surprised at how the label alone can evoke thoughts or emotions. After all, clothing is a language. We use it to communicate with one another about who we are and where (and with whom) we belong. Labels are one form of punctuation in that unspoken language.


Label Collage:

1. Jeannette Beck, Baltimore, Maryland. Gift of Isidore Schnaper, JMM 1992.112.2. 

2. D. Adler, Ladies’ Tailor, Baltimore. From fur-trimmed opera coat owned by Anne Adler Salganik (daughter of David Adler, the tailor in question). Gift of Gordon J. Salganik, JMM 1990.133.2.

3. (top) M. Greenberg, Merchant Tailor, Baltimore, Md. Roll of nine unused labels. Gift of Zelda Cohen, JMM 1988.159.2.

3. (bottom) G.F. Adler Sons, Designers and Tailors, Baltimore. Roll of nine unused labels. Gift of Ruth Lev, JMM 1990.10.6a.

4. Florence Esther – Baltimore. From a custom-made cloche hat owned by Margot Zipper (object 34 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Margot Zipper, JMM 2013.58.2.

5. Charlow, Custom Tailors, Since 1899. Gift of Kenneth Charlow, JMM 1990.203.5.

6. Wolf Cohn, founded 1895, Baltimore, Md. From a bespoke ladies’ suit jacket owned by Naomi Biron Cohen. Gift of Maxine A. Cohen, JMM 2004.114.1.

7. Minna Myerburg, Pikesville, Md. From a satin evening gown owned by Margot Zipper (photo accompanies object 34 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Margot Zipper, JMM 2013.58.4.

8. Estelle-Fanchon, Baltimore. From a pink chiffon dress worn by Sara Fox Hettleman. Gift of Ellen Kahan Zager, JMM 2015.45.2.

9. K. Katz & Sons, Tailors, Baltimore. From morning coat owned by Samuel Sakols (object 16 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Blanche Sakols Schimmel, JMM 1987.39.2.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Fashion Statement: Students as Storytellers Part 2

Posted on April 11th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!


(This is Part 2 of a two-part blog post about the latest education programs offered at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for our special exhibits: Stitching History from the Holocaust and Fashion Statement. Missed Part 1? You can check it out here.)


At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we are stories tellers. We are also storyfinders, storykeepers, and storyprotectors. We are finding new stories all the time. Our current special exhibit, Fashion Statement, is composed of items of clothing that tell stories about their wearers.

During their recent visit, students from John Ruhrah Elementary Middle School had the opportunity to become storytellers. Thinking critically and creatively, they worked in small groups to create stories about the clothing items on display in Fashion Statement.

Students from John Ruhrah’s 7th grade work together to complete their puzzle.

Piecing together a puzzle is like piecing together the story of an object. As each new fact is discovered, another piece of the puzzle falls into place, eventually revealing the whole picture. The 6th to 8th-grade students started with a puzzle. Working together as a team, they completed the puzzle to reveal an item of clothing from the exhibit.

Students made observations about their item of clothing in the exhibit.

After locating their item in the exhibit, students made observations about it. Taking their cue from Nancy Patz’ book “Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat?” students asked questions that a researcher would ask when trying to learn more about an object in a Museum. What is the clothing item? What material, or materials, is it made of? Who wore it? Why do you think someone would wear this specific item? Why was it chosen to be on display by the Museum?

Students used their observations and questions about their object to write stories.

Then, mimicking the rhythmic lyrics of Nancy Patz’ book, students worked together to complete fill-in-the-blank stories for their items. Who was the person who wore the (blank) coat? What was she like? Was she (Blank)?

Students thought about what questions they would want to ask the owner of the item. They came up with questions like: “Why did you put your name on it? Why this color? Where was it made? Was it comfortable?”

Taking an active role as the storyteller, students were empowered to think about what clothing represents. In the case of Stitching History from the Holocaust (see Part 1), clothing was a means for survival and representative of a talent lost to the world. In Fashion Statement, clothing is a way to express your identity.

At the end of the visit, students considered: What can we learn about people through their clothing? What can’t we learn about people from their clothing? What does clothing mean to you?

I encourage you to think about these questions as you visit Fashion Statement and explore how Jewish Marylanders, and all human beings, use clothing as one of the ways we assert who we are.

Thank you to the 6th to 8th-graders at John Ruhrah Elementary Middle School for visiting the Jewish Museum of Maryland this spring. If you are interested in bringing your school, summer camp, or group, please contact Paige Woodhouse, School Program Coordinator, at pwoodhouse@jewishmuseummd.org or 443-873-5167.


Not all stories fit on a label in an exhibit. Looking to learn more about some of the items on display? Check out some “extras” here.


 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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