Posted on March 11th, 2016 by Rachel
Three years, eight months and twelve days (but who’s counting?)
This week marks the culmination of a major JMM initiative, the opening of Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. The exhibition was conceived soon after the arrival of our (then) new executive director, Marvin Pinkert, in June 2012. As we brainstormed ideas for a new exhibit, one idea stood out from the others tossed around, an exploration of Jewish connections to medicine. However, it was clear from the beginning that we were not just looking to create a hall of fame-style exhibit honoring the Jewish heroes of medicine but rather to flesh out an answer to the question that gets asked so often “Just what is it about Jews and medicine?”
Sneak a peek…
As is so often the case with exhibition planning, defining the exhibition concept (along with the title) took a while. From “My Son the Doctor” to “Foreign Bodies” to “Jews, Health and Healing” and finally “Beyond Chicken Soup” our discussions began focusing on the dual notions of how medicine has influenced Jewish identity and conversely how Jewish culture, tradition and religion has impacted the field of medicine.
As we settled on our overarching concept, work on the exhibit intensified on all fronts. Our team of research assistants, interns, volunteers and scholars researched the topic from a wide variety of sources and perspectives. Time spent conducting oral history interviews with local medical practitioners as well as digging through archives at medical research institutes and libraries – including our own collections – proved valuable. Concurrently, we also conducted focus groups and visitor surveys to determine what topics would be of most interest to museum visitors. As we began working with exhibit designer Steve Feldman and media producer Rick Pedolsky, of Amuze Interactives, the exhibit took on a new life, and we began visualizing what it would look like in the Feldman Gallery.
…at our newest exhibit…
With a companion catalog, website, educational curriculum and public program series, Beyond Chicken Soup has been a highly collaborative project that has involved the entire JMM staff as well as an army of consultants and volunteers.
Here’s a look at Beyond Chicken Soup by the numbers:
*Number of lenders to the exhibit: 70
*Number of objects on display: 225
*Farthest distance of travel for loaned objects: Israel (manuscripts collected by Dr. Harry Friedenwald from the National Library of Israel)
*Largest object on display: the back end of a 1970s ambulance (lights flashing!)
*Number of scholar consultants: 4
*Amount of money raised: $824,000
*Number of donors: 27
*Number of project interns: 10
*Number of focus group conversations: 30
*Number of people on the installation crew: 14
*Feet of walls built in the interior of the gallery: 242
…and don’t miss opening weekend!
But the best number we can think of for this exhibit is one! Just one more day before you can experience what we’ve been working on for the last three years.
Can’t wait to see you!
Posted on March 9th, 2016 by Rachel
When Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America opens, I will have been with the Museum for 10 months and three weeks.
I started on the day of the April board meeting last year, and even on that, my very first day, I was already hearing about this amazing health exhibit we had coming. I learned quickly that we’d won two prestigious and competitive grants from the Federal government; that the fundraising goals and achievements for the exhibit had blown all previous records out of the water; that we’d been working on this ambitious project already for nearly three years.
When we say immersive environments, we really mean it!
Fast forward several months, and I was delighted to accept the challenge when Marvin and Deborah asked if I’d take the baton from Deborah as project manager once we transitioned into the fabrication stage of the project.
I had no idea what I was getting into!
I have considerable experience project managing the creation of physical deliverables, but the largest deliverable I’ve ever managed was about the size of a magazine.
Yup, that’s a REAL ambulance (well, the back of one anyway).
Beyond Chicken Soup boasts the last five inches of an ambulance, an almost-full-sized pharmacy entrance, and recreated gymnastic wall bars, just to name three bigger-than-a-breadbox deliverables. It has literally hundreds of components that had to be designed and printed or configured and programmed or fabricated and painted. And that doesn’t even account for all of the artifacts!
This really is a remarkably ambitious undertaking. It forced me to stretch my project-management muscles, and required the assistance of the extended Museum team, from my colleagues on staff to our partners at The Associated to our wonderful vendors, too numerous to mention.
Anyone have these in their childhood school gyms?
I really enjoy project management. I find it remarkably satisfying to look at a finished project and say “I helped make that happen.” That satisfaction is immeasurably more intense when that final product is interesting, smart, funny, or in some way arresting. Lucky for all of us, Beyond Chicken Soup is all those things and more. It tells a fascinating story that resonates with issues that remain key issues in American culture. I am gratified to no end to see this huge undertaking—one I’ve been imagining since my first day on the job—coming together in this last week before the opening.
Make sure to take (and share!) your own #ChickenSoupSelfie when you visit.
I hope you’ll join us this weekend to see for yourself!
A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.
Posted on February 24th, 2016 by Rachel
Walking into the Krieger Schechter Day School on a dreary and snowy February day, my colleagues Trillion, Joanna and I felt as though we had traveled back in time. Students wearing poodle skirts and letter jackets roamed the halls and the sounds of rock and roll played in the background. We had come to participate in the middle school’s Learning Festival, a three-day break from normal academics when the entire student body immerses itself in the study of a specific theme through speakers, field trips and a variety of hands-on activities. This year’s theme, “The 1950s: From Prosperity to Protest”, was an especially rich topic, one that was clearly embraced by students and teachers alike.
The JMM was thrilled to be invited to participate. To help shed light on an important 1950s trend, suburbanization, we installed our traveling exhibition, Jews on the Move, which examines the history of the move of Baltimore’s Jewish community from the city to the suburbs from 1945-68. The exhibition was on view for two weeks in a hallway near Chizuk Amuno’s sanctuary where it was enjoyed by both the school community as well as by synagogue congregants.
Jews on the Move was developed as a collaborative project with The Program in Museums and Society at the Johns Hopkins University. It was originally installed in 2012 at the Johns Hopkins University. It has since been featured at many additional venues including the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Library and several synagogues.
In addition to having the exhibit on view, Trillion and I led two workshops for students during which they had an opportunity to look for photos and stories in the exhibit (bonus points for finding a 1960s photo of Chizuk Amuno!).
Students viewing the exhibit.
Students viewing the exhibit.
They then worked together in groups to review 1950s era advertisements from real estate companies that ran in the Jewish Times that tried to entice suburban home buyers. Students were asked to identify what features were highlighted to appeal to potential buyers (spacious floor plans, new and modern appliances, yards, etc) and how the use of images and typography helped make the case.
Ads like this one from the Jewish Times in 1960 appealed to families looking to move out of crowded homes in the city.
After they had analyzed their photos, students then designed their own ad for a 1950s-era suburban development that they shared with classmates. We loved the enthusiasm with which the students tackled this assignment and were even treated to an advertising jingle and dance by one of the groups.
A blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.