Posted on July 2nd, 2015 by Rachel
To celebrate the opening of our latest exhibit Cinema Judaica, I thought it would be fun to give you a quick behind the scenes look at what it’s like to prepare an exhibit for the public. Although I wasn’t involved much in the actual installation of this exhibit, I was able to lend a hand as opening day drew nearer and finishing touches were made.
Labels are laid beneath their posters in preparation for putting them on the walls.
There was lot to be done the day before the gallery doors opened to the public. Labels needed to be printed and placed under each movie poster in the exhibit. The labels couldn’t be placed on the wall right away- they had to be matched up to their corresponding posters.
Labels are laid beneath their posters in preparation for putting them on the walls.
Once the labels were matched up to their posters, it was time to stick them to the wall. Each label was to be carefully placed exactly one inch from the bottom of its corresponding poster and lined up with the right edge. Once it was determined exactly where the label would go, carefully the double sided sticky tape on the back was peeled and the label was gently and precisely placed on the wall.
Rachel carefully measures one inch from the bottom of the poster.
Once she measured, she was finally able to place the label on the wall with double sided tape.
The Queen of Sheba’s finished label mounted on the wall.
Although a lot of the instructions when it came to labeling was fairly straightforward, some things were left to stylistic choices.
Joanna decides where she would like to place this label, which belongs to all three of these posters. Should it go to the right, the left, or the center?
Finally, all that was left was to put up the panels in the front of the exhibit.
Joanna and Rachel team up to put up the remaining panels at the front of the exhibit.
This behind the scenes look highlights the fact that there is a lot that goes into creating and setting up an exhibit. It’s easy to walk into an exhibit and forget that in order for it to be available to you, so many people took their time to put it together and make it something worth appreciating.
A blog post by Marketing Intern Carmen Venable. To read more posts by interns click HERE.
Posted on June 29th, 2015 by Rachel
“So I check my inbox, open the new email, and there it is– Tina Louise’s manager, telling me that Tina would like us to stop pursuing the matter, that she knows her family history and that we are not included in it. But what does she know?” Zayde laughs as he shares his hope that our loud, yet humble Ashkenazi Jewish family might just be directly related to a real live celebrity, and his audience around the dining room table laughs and claps in time with the fall of the climax of Zayde’s favorite, and most famous story. I roll my eyes, but I laugh and clap anyway, just to feed his ego, and secure my post as his favorite grandchild.
The adrenaline rush that was Lombard Street.
Zayde’s most enduring legacy was his storytelling ability, and he could make any mundane pseudo-truth sound like Nicolas Cage’s announcement of his plans to steal the Declaration of Independence. His stories are synonymous with memories of a 5-year-old me sitting in his seat at the head of the dining room table, with enough trays of kugel, platters of lox, and pots of matzah ball soup decorating on the smooth green tablecloth to block my view of the family member sitting at the opposite end of the table. His stories are reminiscent of his family’s pre-World War II exodus from Hungary and from Poland, explained in English but understood in Yiddish, and given the momentum to time-travel through the family tree by hours of hora dancing. And his stories echo our walks around Baltimore City, breathing life into his American Jewish anecdotes and scouring the streets for hidden, buried memories Zayde might have forgotten about to make room for the Tina Louise debacle. Grateful for the air conditioning of my most recent walk down memory lane, I felt at home during my tour of the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit three weeks ago, during my first week as a JMM intern.
The Jewish influence on Baltimore City.
Stepping into the exhibit for the first time, I was immediately hyper-aware of my bias in the Baltimore Jewish persona: I’m Jewish, and my family emigrated from the Old Country to Baltimore. But the entrance of the exhibit, and the first few italicized blurbs positioned next to the black-and-white almost life-size cutouts of 19th and 20th century Lombard Street citizens welcomed me with open arms, and didn’t care if I didn’t have firsthand experience with how to properly schecht a chicken. The exhibit made it very clear to me that what I didn’t know, I could be taught, and my skills, whatever they might be, would be put to use in a different way in the community. I walked through fruit and vegetable stalls, shoe shining booths, the infamous and Corned Beef Row, stopping to chat with shopkeepers, babushkas, and watching the potpourri of Jewish, African American, and Italian kids chasing each other in the street. I nursed a bowl of soup at old-fashioned Attman’s Deli, ducked and flinched near the chicken coops and shops to avoid making enemies with loose chickens and the people who were trying to subdue them, sat intimidated in front of a sewing machine that is basically half my size, surrounded by the faded, multicolored confetti of 20th century linen scraps, and introduced myself politely to the Saye clan, a family of 6 who were new in town and looked a bit apprehensive, but were making a life for themselves in the New World. The places I was seeing in the photos began to build themselves brick by brick, the people I was meeting steadied their breathing and offered their hands for me to shake. I was beginning to see that life as an American Jew, or as a Jewish American, meant a life as shapeshifters, constantly and consistently adapting to our surroundings to find our place in society, without having to blend in with the background like a chameleon.
Up close and personal with one of Briney’s chickens.
I’m not sure what I was expecting before I walked through the exhibit, but I know it wasn’t this. I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, and was fed secondhand stories. They tasted great, but I never looked at the nutrition facts on the back of the box; I knew that they were important, but I wasn’t sure exactly which details of which stories gave them that extra sweetness or spicy kick, so I didn’t think I would be able to share in the collective memory of Jewish Baltimore and genuinely understand the significance because I didn’t live through them myself. But the best part about the exhibit is that the story can be meaningful whether or not you have ties to the characters; the messages are universal, the details are what give it their flair. So really, we could all be related to Tina Louise.
Two of Saye family children, immigrants from Eastern Europe.
A blog post by Museum Intern Rachel Sweren. To read more posts by interns click HERE.
Posted on June 26th, 2015 by Rachel
The Amazing Mendes Cohen closed on June 14th, and Cinema Judaica opens on July 1st. In between, while one exhibit comes down and the other goes up, our visitors have one less gallery to see.
Authorized personnel only, please!
Let’s lift that veil of secrecy* for a moment, and reveal a little of the behind-closed-doors work of changing out an exhibit. Alas, no magic wands or helpful elves are involved; all the dismantling, painting, fabrication, artifact prep, and label writing requires the work of many hands.
Eight of the dozen or more people who helped take down Mendes in a single day.
Some exhibitions are straightforward, and easy to plan far in advance. Others require a little more on-the-spot decision making. The traveling Cinema Judaica exhibit was created by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum from the extensive collections of Ken Sutak. HUC-JIR sends out an assortment of posters, depending on what’s available at any given time, and the borrowing museum can choose the titles (and poster sizes) that will best suit their plans and their gallery. Unfortunately, in this case the posters couldn’t arrive at the JMM more than a few weeks before the exhibit opened. When they arrived, Intern Kaleigh and I had fun opening up the boxes, discovering which posters had been sent, and starting on the condition reports. . . then the planning had to begin in earnest.
After making an initial cull of the poster options – and keeping in mind the images coming from other lenders – I wrote up a list and recruited three of our summer interns to help plan the exhibit layout in situ, using stand-in handwritten notes taped to the walls. After the first round, we ran out of room: still too many posters! It was decision time. Do we like Kirk Douglas better in “The Juggler” or in “Cast a Giant Shadow”? Was there room for all six versions of “The Ten Commandments” posters? (Answer: no.) Could I get all five George Sanders movies on the walls? (Answer: yes.) Which large images would look best on the high-visibility walls, and which smaller items were less impactful? Once those questions were sorted, we started hanging up the real things.
Planning potential layouts.
Thankfully, this is where my skills and labor were less needed. I like hanging pictures, and I pride myself on doing a good job – but a gallery of this size, with over 50 items to hang, requires more than just a tape measure, a hammer, and my ‘eye’ for spacing. We called in our expert consultants (courtesy of Mark Ward and his team) who have been working hard to prepare the posters, hang them securely and evenly, and generally ensure our exhibit looks as fantastic as possible.
Mat cutting! Laser levels!
Things are coming together nicely; we’re not there yet – but hey, we have until Wednesday morning, when the “no entry” signs come down. Meanwhile, you can prepare for the opening of Cinema Judaica by spending the weekend watching your favorite old movies (might I suggest a personal favorite, “Foreign Correspondent”?), then visit us next week when the Feldman Gallery doors are open wide once again!
Installing “The Ten Commandments.”
*Since the work is frequently rather loud, and there’s no way to sneak all the artifacts and labels and equipment into the room without going through the lobby, it’s not really all that secret a process; many visitors get their own, in-person behind-the-scenes look – if they happen to visit at the right moment. We’ve also featured the exhibit installation process many times on the blog, such as here, here, and here.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.