Beyond Chicken Soup Travels Beyond Baltimore

Posted on October 19th, 2017 by

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

I was delighted to have the opportunity to travel to Cleveland for the opening of the JMM exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage on October 8. As part of my visit, I gave a talk at the members’ opening, trained their corps of docents on leading tours and then gave another talk at an event sponsored by Cleveland’s Jewish Federation.

It is always fun to see how our exhibits get translated into different spaces. Walking into the gallery’s first section, I was delighted to see Dr. Harry Friedenwald’s collection of manuscripts documenting Jewish contributions to medicine going back hundreds of years.

Even though I knew that the books on display were facsimiles, I was so impressed by the quality of the reproduction and had to make sure that the docents were aware of the fact that what is on display are not the actual books that Harry owned.

Even though I knew that the books on display were facsimiles, I was so impressed by the quality of the reproduction and had to make sure that the docents were aware of the fact that what is on display are not the actual books that Harry owned.

It was also reassuring to see the contents of our good friend, Dr. Morris Abramovitz, reassembled so beautifully.

It was also reassuring to see the contents of our good friend, Dr. Morris Abramovitz, reassembled so beautifully.

I also enjoyed seeing how the staff at the Maltz Museum had incorporated new text panels, photos and artifacts that tell the local experience of Cleveland’s Jewish community.

I also enjoyed seeing how the staff at the Maltz Museum had incorporated new text panels, photos and artifacts that tell the local experience of Cleveland’s Jewish community.

The museum assembled an impressive collection of materials telling the story of Cleveland’s Mt. Sinai hospital which have been preserved thanks to the Mt. Sinai Foundation. One of the speakers at the Federation event shared a detail history of the hospital which closed in 1996.

The museum assembled an impressive collection of materials telling the story of Cleveland’s Mt. Sinai hospital which have been preserved thanks to the Mt. Sinai Foundation. One of the speakers at the Federation event shared a detail history of the hospital which closed in 1996.

The Maltz display also features a section devoted to its own home health care heroes.

The Maltz display also features a section devoted to its own home health care heroes.

The best part of participating in the opening events was hearing new visitors laugh at the opening joke, point out interesting things that they noticed in the exhibit, share their own recollections triggered by objects and stories on display and share such positive feedback with me about how much they loved the exhibit.

The opening of "Beyond Chicken Soup" at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

The opening of “Beyond Chicken Soup” at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Maltz Museum members enjoying the exhibit.

Maltz Museum members enjoying the exhibit.

I greatly appreciated how at home the staff at the Maltz made me feel and I was struck by the many similarities between our two institutions in terms of size and audience.

Beyond Chicken Soup remains on view in Cleveland until April 8. Be sure to tell your friends and family in the Midwest to visit.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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




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