Traveling the Exhibit

Posted on October 18th, 2017 by

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

On October 10th, our landmark exhibition “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America” opened at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland.  Getting an exhibit of nearly 300 objects packed, moved, and unpacked again is quite a process, though one that is hopefully invisible and seamless to the visitors … and to the objects themselves.  We want it to look like everything was magically teleported to the new spot with minimal effort and impact, but of course it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Joelle and Amy with the all-powerful traveling exhibit binder!

Joelle and Amy with the all-powerful traveling exhibit binder!

Our summer interns, Joelle and Amy, were a fantastic help in packing the wide variety of artifacts and documents – from a one-inch package of scalpel blades to a full-size doctor’s examining table, from fragile blown-glass show globes to a sturdy vintage basketball – taking photos, writing condition reports, and typing up box lists to make sure everything would travel in good order.  Lorie, our Archivist, and our wonderful team from Precision Plastics were also crucial to the preparations and the actual move. Once the truck arrived at the Maltz, I had the lucky task of traveling to Cleveland to spend four days unpacking it all, checking it once again, and putting it in place.

Not only the artifacts need to travel. In addition to the panels and graphics, we sent the exhibit’s display cases, artifact mounts, and props.

Here’s the Gymnasium case nearly set up, with a bubble-wrapped textile form waiting to be unwrapped and dressed.

Here’s the Gymnasium case nearly set up, with a bubble-wrapped textile form waiting to be unwrapped and dressed.

My visual memory is pretty good, but it isn’t wise to rely upon it entirely.  A few judicious photos of the original exhibit help make sure we don’t have to reinvent the wheel or, in this case, the pharmacy window.

Good reference photos are a must!

Good reference photos are a must!

Lindsay Miller, Assistant Curator at the Maltz, was my partner all week as we installed the exhibit.  Their gallery is shaped differently than ours, and the Maltz had their own content to add; it was not simply a matter of recreating our exhibition exactly, and Lindsay knew what needed to be changed or adapted.  Plus, many artifacts require at least two pairs of hands for installation.

Here, Lindsay adds a few drops of food coloring to the water in one of the pharmacy show globes (yes, installing an exhibit can involve many unexpected, “other duties as assigned” tasks).

Here, Lindsay adds a few drops of food coloring to the water in one of the pharmacy show globes (yes, installing an exhibit can involve many unexpected, “other duties as assigned” tasks).

The Maltz has their own crew for the heavy lifting, just as we do.

Here, one of their team carefully moves a furniture crate to the “doctor’s office” vignette for unpacking.

Here, one of their team carefully moves a furniture crate to the “doctor’s office” vignette for unpacking.

A partial view of Dr. Abramowitz’s Office, with furniture unpacked.

A partial view of Dr. Abramowitz’s Office, with furniture unpacked.

Dr. Aaron Friedenwald smiles gently upon his new temporary home, waiting for visitors.

Dr. Aaron Friedenwald smiles gently upon his new temporary home, waiting for visitors.

“Beyond Chicken Soup” will be on display at the Maltz through April 8, 2018. If you’re traveling to Cleveland, we hope you’ll visit!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Like Persimmon Sauce, But Better

Posted on October 11th, 2017 by

A blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. You can read more posts by Marvin here.

It was 1979 and we were getting ready to leave Korea. I had spent eighteen months as a foreign service officer working for the United States Information Agency. My boss was an affable fellow who had a passion for Korean culture and an eye for a bargain.

Left: Japanese persimmon (variety Hachiya) - watercolor 1887 drawn by Amanda A. Newton. Right: Fuyu persimmon by artist R.G. Steadman

Left: Japanese persimmon (variety Hachiya) – watercolor 1887 drawn by Amanda A. Newton.         Right: Fuyu persimmon by artist R.G. Steadman

So neither my wife nor I were very surprised when my boss called to tell us that he had found a great deal on a case of ripe persimmons – but neither he or his housekeeper (his wife was away on travel) could figure out what to do with this massive quantity of delicious fruit. My wife jumped into action. She worked with the housekeeper to peel the fruit and improvised a puree that she put into the freezer. Unfortunately, I never got to taste it.

Fast forward to 1990. I am in my first museum job at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry working on that museum’s strategic plan. Due to the untimely death of the Museum’s business manager, I find myself temporarily in charge of the museum store. This new assignment puts me in contact with all the product vendors who supply the store. I struck up a friendship with one t-shirt designer from the West Coast who did fantastic custom shirts to match our exhibits.  The artist, Doug Kim, had been raised as an adopted child and devoted much of his free time to helping Korean adoptees rediscover their heritage.

One of the excellent shirts designed by Doug Kim.

One of the excellent shirts designed by Doug Kim.

When Doug visited Chicago on a sales trip we invited him to our house for dinner. Quite naturally, the conversation drifted to our Korean experience. It turned out that he knew my old boss.  Without being prompted he said, “You know one of my favorite memories was going to dinner at Jim’s house and getting this fantastic dessert of ice cream covered with persimmon sauce.” My wife and I were flabbergasted.

So what does this story have to do with the Jewish Museum of Maryland?

Well, as most of you know, next week we will host the exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage. We will be the sixth venue in a national tour undertaken by the National Archives and Records Administration, with generous support from the U.S. Department of State. And I have to confess that I am more than a little familiar with the exhibit.

About eight years ago, when I was still director of the National Archives Experience, my colleague Doris Hamburg (at that time Director of Preservation Programs) called me up to tell me that we needed to plan an exhibit based on the artifacts that had been recovered from the basement of Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters, the Mukhabarat.  She told me the whole amazing story about how the Mukhabarat had been divided into rooms based on the “nationality” of the subject of intelligence, how the material on Jewish life and Israel was located at the lowest level, how it had been flooded when bombs burst the pipes, and how it had been rescued by the American Army, the State Department and the National Archives.

Items recovered from the flooded basement of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, before treatment.

Items recovered from the flooded basement of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, before treatment.

You might imagine that I would be thrilled with this new assignment. But truth be told, I was quite reticent. My team was up to its ears working on a new addition to the National Archives’ museum space – including the Records of Rights exhibit. The new project, at that time simply called the “Iraqi Jewish Archives”, had many stakeholders both inside and outside of government, and it was clear that forging consensus would be a challenging task. Once I was committed, however, I put my heart in it. By 2012 we had a full exhibit development team, a new exhibit title and a plan outline. Just as the exhibit was becoming “real,” I announced my decision to leave the National Archives and take up my current duties at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

ija-logo-home

At the time I left the project there were plans for just two venues:  Washington and New York. So when I went to visit the exhibit in Washington shortly after it opened in November 2013 I thought that this would be the last time I would see this work.

In 2015 the tour was extended to include Kansas City, Yorba Linda (the Nixon Presidential Library) and Miami Beach. At a museum conference that year I learned that the National Archives was considering extending the tour so I hastened to put our name on the list.

So like persimmon sauce, sometimes our deeds follow us in unexpected ways.  But this time I get to taste it – and share it with you.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Inescapable: America’s first international superstar makes a return visit to Baltimore!

Posted on September 25th, 2017 by

A blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. You can read more posts by Marvin here.


JMM Insights, September 20, 2017

The New Year is upon us and in addition to wishing all our readers a happy and healthy year ahead, I wanted to share some exciting news about the year ahead.

By now most of you know about our next two major exhibits in the Feldman Gallery (both of which have their origin at the National Archives).  On October 15 we open Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage featuring more than 20 artifacts and documents from the Iraqi Jewish community, recovered and restored from Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters.  Looking ahead to next spring, we’ll be launching Amending America: Bill of Rights on April 9 and putting new focus on the Lloyd Street Synagogue as a landmark of religious freedom.

A pair of exhibits from the National Archives

A pair of exhibits from the National Archives

But this summer we’ve continued to add to our calendar, developing a concept for a month-long performance series called “JMM Live” in February, an expansion of our Baltimore edition of the “My Family History” project in March and a collaboration with the Everyman Theater and Rich Hollander on a companion exhibit to the upcoming play Book of Joseph highlights March and April.

Every one of these projects will be a quality experience (and of course, I love all my children and all my exhibits equally) but I have to admit there’s a special excitement around our most recent addition to the program calendar.  On June 21, 2018 we will premiere Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.  Houdini, aka Erik Weisz, would be a fascinating subject for an exhibit in any time or place.  But the story of a poor immigrant who escaped the shackles of social norms to rise to the status of international celebrity seemed like an ideal topic for an exhibit in our era.  To put together this project we’ve reached out to public museums and private collectors across the country – but what really has made the exhibit possible is our extraordinary guest curator, Baltimore magician and storyteller David London.

Coming Summer 2018!

Coming Summer 2018!

David has been creating interactive magical experiences for over 20 years. He is the Director of Circus of Wonders, and has been fascinated with Harry Houdini since he was a child.  He tells me that he performed his first magic trick at age seven and even his Bar Mitzvah speech explored Jews and magic. Since he signed onto the project in August, he’s been using his network of contacts within the magician community to make this exhibit a truly one-of- a-kind encounter with Houdini and his world. As a special treat for our readers, David has agreed to write a guest blog that we are calling “Finding Houdini,” where he will document his journey over the next several months as his visits Houdini sites, museums and collections. To join him on his adventures, click here! Consider this a small dip of honey to make your New Year that much sweeter.

Shana Tova!

~Marvin

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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