Posted on December 23rd, 2016 by Rachel
This is the time of year for reflection, for compiling top ten best and worst lists, for noting what we did (and did not accomplish) and how we can do better in the year ahead. In keeping with the spirit of the season, what follows is a list of some of my favorite JMM moments from 2016.
1. Paul Simon: Words and Music exhibit brings in record crowds – By the time we closed the exhibit, on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, more than 5,000 visitors came through our doors over the course of three months. But even more gratifying than the numbers was how the exhibit enabled us to raise our institutional profile and attract new visitors, thanks, in part, to widespread media coverage.
The exhibit provided us with an opportunity to hold several musical performances in the Lloyd Street Synagogue, such as our concluding program by Baltimorean Sonia Rutstein, which proved popular.
2. Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America opens – After more than three years of development, we opened a major, original exhibition that explores the influence of science and culture on one another and how medicine has impacted Jewish identity. The exhibit opened to many accolades from both press and the public and we continue to receive wonderful feedback from visitors.
Opening Beyond Chicken Soup
The exhibit marked another important milestone as we successfully raised more funds than ever before for an exhibit and many of our sponsors came from within the medical community. And if you haven’t had a chance to see it, don’t worry, the exhibit remains on view through January 16. (But don’t put this off too long!)
3. Our newest living history character, Henrietta Szold, debuted in September– With a fabulous performance by actor Natalie Smith, the newest member of our Immigrant’s Trunk living history roster, focuses on Szold’s contributions to Zionism and to improving access to quality healthcare in Palestine.
Henrietta in action
To date, the character has performed at the JMM, at schools and synagogues.
4. Our annual Summer Teachers Institute successfully engaged more than 40 educators from public, private and parochial schools from across the state – This three-day workshop featured scholars, artists, survivors and a visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Teachers enjoyed participating in an interactive session exploring artistic responses to oppression facilitated by Gail Prensky and Sarah Baumgarten.
Comments such as: “How do I adequately put into words all that was imparted during this experience? I was completely blown away with the amount of information conveyed throughout the various presentations and, on a logistical level, I was impressed by the professionalism and organization of the entire workshop. The materials and resources were such a valuable blessing and I walked away having learned so much and excited to be able to take it back into the classroom and school environment.“ reflect the program’s success.
5. JMM launches a new statewide collecting initiative in conjunction with an upcoming exhibition, Just Married! Wedding Stories of Jewish Maryland – In keeping with our mission to collect, preserve and interpret Maryland Jewish history, and to fill in gaps in our collection, JMM staff is looking to collect new material that reflect the diversity of Jewish Marylanders wedding traditions.
6. In preparation for our upcoming exhibit, Remembering Auschwitz, JMM staff, in partnership with artist Lori Schocket and The Human Element Project, held a series of workshops for Holocaust survivors and their families. The workshops resulted in the creation of collages, created on canvases that incorporated photocopies of participants’ photographs and documents that will be transformed into plaques. The plaques will be on display as part of our spring exhibit (March 5-May 29, 2017)
The Rozga siblings make collages honoring their parents.
7. Our educational programs make connections between past and present –
One example can be seen in a visit this fall by a group of students that included Syrian refugees who learned about immigration history – as they made connections with their own personal experiences – through a tour of Voices of Lombard Street.
In addition this year’s Lessons of the Shoah, a high school interfaith program co-sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council that took place at John Carroll High school, focused on the plight of refugees, past and present.
8. We continued to build new partnerships and expand existing ones – JMM has long benefitted from our continued partnerships with such organizations as the Baltimore Jewish Council, The Maryland State Department of Education and Baltimore City Schools. This year we were proud to co-sponsor programs with the Gordon Center; the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies; Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University and many others. These collaborations give us the opportunity to reach new and diverse audiences and also allow us to provide access to speakers and programs we would not be able to afford on our own.
One particularly successful joint program was developed in partnership with the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, an October event that was billed as a Jewish Baltimore Family Reunion. Alfred Moses delivered a talk in the Lloyd Street Synagogue based on his book about his family’s business.
9. After more than 160 years in existence, the Lloyd Street Synagogue receives new attention – The JMM’s star attraction, the Lloyd Street Synagogue, was the subject of new research, art, conversations and some well deserved maintenance. In conjunction with Paul Simon: Words and Music we developed a themed building tour that examined the role that music has played in the life of the different congregation that have called LSS home.
We also invited artists for a day of plein air painting and were delighted by the different artistic interpretations of our beloved synagogue.
Our efforts to breathe new life into the building resulted in a series of two conversations held with community stakeholders and representatives of other local history organizations. We asked participants to provide feedback about how we can better make use of the synagogue as a venue to attract new audiences (as well as encouraging repeat visitation). We were thrilled by the responses we received and look forward to implementing some of the ideas that were generated. Noting that the inside of the synagogue had gotten a little worn over the years, we also decided to invest in a major fall cleaning project that resulted in a sparkling interior.
10. JMM receives an award from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for an upcoming exhibit on the scrap industry – How gratifying it was to receive notification in September that the JMM, once again, was selected to receive a prestigious (and competitive) grant award from this federal agency. We received the notice just weeks after we launched the second phase of planning for our upcoming exhibition Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling with a site visit from members of our exhibit team including curator, Jill Vexler, and the folks from our design firm, Alchemy Studios.
As part of the team meeting in September, we visited a nearby scrap yard, Baltimore Scrap Corp.
The exhibit opens in Fall 2018.
As with all Top Ten lists, there are so many more highlights from the past year that I could have included. 2016 was, indeed, a banner year for the JMM. We look forward to seeing you in the year ahead and wish you and your family happy holidays and a wonderful new year!
A blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.
Posted on November 18th, 2016 by Rachel
In the middle ages, alchemists sought out the philosopher’s stone that could turn base metal into gold. They never found it. But in 19th and 20th century America, entrepreneurs, mainly poor immigrants of Jewish or Italian heritage, found a way to turn waste materials into productive assets – in the process, not only transforming metal, rag and rubber, but also their own lives and their own communities.
In October 2018 the Jewish Museum of Maryland will launch a major national traveling exhibit called American Alchemy: Junk to Scrap to Recycling that will for the first time bring the largely untold history of this industry to a wider public.
Bales of rags. Shapiro Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 1942
We have been laying the groundwork for this project for nearly a year (in fact its origins go back to ideas generated in 2008). We have been researching photos and artifacts, assembling an exhibit team, developing budgets and funding plans. But it was just yesterday that the project had its formal launch as we invited leaders of scrap businesses from across the region to convene at JMM. Neal Shapiro, former president of Cambridge Iron and Metal here in Baltimore, and a consultant on the project helped assemble the gathering. We took them through Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America – a project that has much in common with our new venture:
> a similar scale and blend of “real things” and interactive experiences;
> a paired effort to explore both history and technology (and for the American Alchemy exhibit we will also add the art of recycling);
> an exhibition that works equally well for school groups and general visitors.
After the brief tour, I described our concept – it has a scope that stretches from an ad for scrap brass and copper by Paul Revere to the first car shredders to the latest metal analyzer guns. I also explained that while it would inevitably have a lot to say about the Jewish community (it’s estimated that just a few decades ago 80% of all scrap CEOs were Jewish), this particular exhibit was about the whole story of the industry – and would include people from all ethnic backgrounds who made the transformation from push carts to global enterprises possible.
An automobile graveyard outside Baltimore, Maryland, August 1941. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Next, we swapped stories. We learned about businesses with unlikely sites (e.g. Jersey Shores, PA), unlikely artifacts (e.g. a terrorist bombed Israeli bus – it was saved, not scrapped) and unlikely misfortunes (e.g. what happens when you drop a large battery in downtown DC). But more importantly we learned that we were “family” – as some of the senior members of the group recounted their memories of the parents and grandparents of their assembled “competitors.” Even I got to tell a few stories about the scrap metal and rag businesses owned by my family – and lessons learned that carry over to my work in museums.
So many stories around the room
On Monday we take the next step in our project’s development – a team meeting in New York, with our curator, Jill Vexler (also grew up in a scrap business household) and our designer, Alchemy Studio led by Wayne LaBar. We’ll be taking this huge topic and compressing it to 2,000 square feet – even a bigger trick than compressing a car into a bundle of metal with a hydraulic press!
If you are reading this newsletter and happen to have photos or documents related to the scrap industry, please contact Deborah Cardin at email@example.com. If you are just interested in learning more about the exhibit and staying in the loop as our plans progress feel free to contact either Deborah or me.
Posted on November 2nd, 2016 by Rachel
Researching a new exhibit can have unexpected side benefits, including the opportunity to learn even more about our collections. The “more product, less process” method of archival work means we do our best to get at least minimal access to our archival collections as quickly as possible, but it also means that researchers – including museum staff ourselves – need to dig a little deeper when our records tell us the collection contains something of interest. This can be frustrating, in a world where so much content is instantly available at your fingertips… but it’s also very fun. (And, of course, our further investigations are recorded, so the next person has a slightly easier task.)
As we prepare for next summer’s Just Married! exhibit, it’s been my happy job to delve into the archives and take a closer look at everything wedding-related. Whenever our previous catalogers noted a “bridal book,” “wedding sermon,” or “engagement card” calling out for more specific description, there am I, like a superhero researcher… okay, that metaphor doesn’t really work. But nevertheless, thanks to the heavy lifting of the initial catalogers, I know where to look for the goodies, and I can swoop in and finish the job.
There have been lots of great discoveries in this process, and a few disappointments as well. Here’s one of the latter: a fun piece in itself, but not quite what I was expecting…
Announcement card, late 1930s. Donated by Sadie B. Feldman, JMM 1993.63.24
Fake-out! It’s not a delightful wedding announcement card, as it appears at first glance; it’s delightful advertisement for the work of Baltimore artist and designer Samson Feldman (1900-1983). So, in a sense, this ad did exactly its job: it drew my attention – promising one thing, then, surprise! it turned out to be something else – and it was memorable, since it was the first thing I thought of when it came time to write this blog. The work of Samson Feldman (1900-1983) will likely be featured in Just Married!, along with several other Maryland artists who produced ketubahs, invitations, and the like. But this particular piece is not quite what I was hoping for.
Alos, don’t forget – we want your wedding invitations and photos! Check out our “Marrying Maryland” page for more info.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.