When the Collections Are Not What They Seem

Posted on November 2nd, 2016 by

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…

Outside:

JMM 1993.63.24

JMM 1993.63.24

Inside:

JMM 1993.62.24

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.

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




A Trip to the Scrap Yard

Posted on September 21st, 2016 by

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s newest original exhibition project, American Alchemy: From Junk to Scrap to Recycling officially launched its second phase of development with a convening of our project team, including new project curator, Jill Vexler, and our designers from Alchemy Studios. The exhibition which explores the history of Jewish involvement in the scrap industry also will reflect the experiences of non-Jews and covers a wide swath of history from the 18th-21st centuries. We are currently in the process of collecting stories and artifacts that reflect the unique nature of these businesses, many of which have remained in the same families for generations.

As you can see from this map, the scrap industry has a large national presence and our exhibit team is conducting research in many other cities beyond Baltimore.

As you can see from this map, the scrap industry has a large national presence and our exhibit team is conducting research in many other cities beyond Baltimore.

What better way to inspire our team than a visit to a local scrap yard so we could get a first-hand look at the materials, technology and human capital that are necessary in order to transform one person’s junk into another person’s treasure. So we drove to south Baltimore to visit David Simon at Baltimore Scrap Corp. David regaled us with stories of life in the scrap industry and described the evolution of his family’s business which got its start in 1916.

The highlight of our visit was a guided tour of the yard where we saw huge mounds of metal object castaways and flattened cars that were awaiting their turn in the gigantic shredder (sadly, we could not see the shredder in action as it is used during night hours in order to save electricity costs).

The highlight of our visit was a guided tour of the yard where we saw huge mounds of metal object castaways and flattened cars that were awaiting their turn in the gigantic shredder (sadly, we could not see the shredder in action as it is used during night hours in order to save electricity costs).

We were all impressed by the sheer scale of materials that were piled high in mounds, not to mention the speed at which materials are completely transformed into reusable parts. We all left feeling energized and excited about our work on this project.

Baltimore Scrap Corp.

Baltimore Scrap Corp.

The project also got an important boost with news we received last week that the exhibit was the recipient of a highly competitive federal grant award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. American Alchemy opens at the JMM in Fall 2018.

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Unobtrusive Observations: Evaluating Beyond Chicken Soup

Posted on August 29th, 2016 by

For the past month, we have begun doing evaluations of our Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America exhibit. We have been tracking, or completing “unobtrusive observations” of visitors, where data is collected about what attracts and holds the attention of our guests in the exhibition. We have also been completing short interviews where we ask visitors questions about their experience after leaving the exhibit. We hope to conduct between 70-100 evaluations before the exhibit closes in mid-January and have already completed about 25, due in large part to the work of our fabulous summer interns and volunteers.

"Its All Greek to Me" interactive.

“Its All Greek to Me” interactive.

I received a sneak peek at the data we have collected. I learned that the average stay was 30 minutes. The audience type was a mix between seniors, adults and young adults and many seemed to deeply engage with the exhibit content. When visitors were asked to sum up one “take away” message from the exhibit, one mentioned the long historical contribution of Jews to the progression of medical knowledge and practice. While some listed discrimination and stereotyping of Jewish doctors as a prominent theme, others remarked how so many Jewish immigrants were able to succeed, despite all the obstacles, in medicine. Still others were struck by eugenics or how modern medicine has come a long way since the early 1900s.

The Doctor's Office

The Doctor’s Office

Visitors seemed to enjoy the doctor’s office and the old medical instruments. They also enjoyed learning about local Baltimore history, including the spotlight on Sinai Hospital, and seeing the 15th century medical books collected by Harry Friedenwald and on loan to the JMM from the National Museum of Israel. Almost all visitors exclaim “eww!” when they read in our Pharmacy window that a dead mouse was once considered medicine for the treatment of diabetes.

Check out all those post-it notes!

Check out all those post-it notes!

Visitors have also been continuing to add post-it notes to the comment board. One visitor commented that the exhibit is amazing for kinesthetic learners because of all the interactive parts. We got another slightly humorous comment from a Dr. Berman who explored the exhibit and got slightly panicked each time the “paging Dr. Berman” sound clip went off in the hospital section.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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