Posted on September 21st, 2015 by Rachel
In a recent phone conversation, my sister, the Sahmnambulist, was telling me about the road trip her family took from their home in Indiana through the Midwest.
“When we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” she started to say,
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” I interrupted, “Did you see the Paul Simon exhibit?”
“Oh my god, yes! I can’t believe I didn’t tell you about it before! It was amazing!”
“Em, that exhibit is coming to MY MUSEUM!” I exclaimed, because naturally, five months of employment here makes the Jewish Museum of Maryland, my museum.
We went on to talk about Paul Simon, “The Boxer” and Graceland which, inevitably, led to talk about our dad.
Tracie and Dad
In 1986 when Graceland was released, Emily and I were seven and 10 respectively. That year and the several years following, that album was on permanent repeat whenever we were with our dad. I remember conversations with our grandmother about how diamonds on the soles of your shoes would surely scratch the floor (“Mom, it’s just a metaphor,” dad would say). There were very serious conversations between we two sisters, trying to understand the implications of some of the lyrics, (“but why would Betty call him Al? Is that his name or isn’t it?”). The music video with Chevy Chase was both hysterical and confusing (wasn’t Paul Simon the singer? Why was Chevy Chase doing all of the singing?). And there was nothing better than the three of us belting out the lyrics in the car (back then, kids still got to sit in the front seat. I always got shotgun (thanks, Em!)).
Fast forward these thirty years, and Emily and I are both parents ourselves (my daughter is 3, her sons are 5 and 2), and our dad is no longer with us. It’s bittersweet having the ephemera of this album—the soundtrack to my childhood relationship with my dad—coming to my workplace. Dad’s been gone nearly two and a half years now, yet I find myself regularly thinking, “wow, gotta tell Dad about this!” If he were still living, he’d be getting a copy of the exhibit catalogue for Christmukkah this year. (I may buy myself a copy in his honor.)
Tracie and Emily
When Marvin told me about the show (plans were already in the works for hosting this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit when I started at the Museum back in April, 2015), I quickly started to realize just how much of my life is backed by the sound of Paul Simon’s music.
In addition to the Graceland connection with my dad, Mom used to sing me “Feeling Groovy” as a lullaby. As a result, I, too, sing “Feeling Groovy” to my little one (I change the final stanza so that instead of singing “Life, I love you, All is groovy” I sing “Ruth, I love you.” It blew her mind when the song came on the radio and it didn’t have her name in it.)
Like so many other teenagers, I felt angsty recognition in “I am a Rock” and “The only living boy in New York” (even though I was a girl in Baltimore). And I held a grudge for years against the college friend who scratched my “Rhythm of the Saints” CD.
The subtitle of the Paul Simon exhibit is “Words and Music,” two things I deeply love. I love words when they’re used to express and build feelings, to express and build art. I also love music (though I’m not a musician). It’s no wonder, then, that Paul Simon—the master wordsmith and master musician—holds such a special place in my heart.
I’m realizing that he has a similar place in the hearts of a huge portion of Americans. I’m surprised and delighted by the attention that this exhibit is garnering my museum. Whenever I mention that the exhibit is coming, people’s eyes light up—and that reaction seems to independent of race, religion, even age.
And so, as the activity increases and Joanna works with our partners to unpack, arrange, and install the exhibit, I find myself excited and grateful: Excited to see the exhibit and visit with my dad, if only in my own head; grateful to the JMM for bringing me Paul Simon (and by extension my late father) and grateful to Paul Simon for giving more people from all over the region a good reason to come and see what a great resource is here, in my museum.
A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.
Posted on September 11th, 2015 by Rachel
De-installing Cinema Judaica
This week at the JMM we bid a fond farewell to Cinema Judaica. The exhibition of film posters and memorabilia, developed by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum, was on display from July 1-September 6. Thanks to the creativity and hard work of JMM collections manager, Joanna Church, with assistance from exhibit designer and fabricator, Mark Ward, the exhibition also featured a local tie in through the addition of the wonderful photographs by Amy Davis of local movie houses (many of which have long been shuttered) and documentation about local film screenings of movies on display.
Cinema Judaica proved to be a summer blockbuster, drawing unexpected crowds and press attention. In total, during the nine weeks the exhibit was on display we welcomed 9% more visitors in comparison to same period last year. This was, in large part, thanks to the very successful events planned by JMM Programs Manager, Trillion Attwood.
Jewish Movies 101
Cinema Judaica was an excellent inspiration for the nine programs that took place during the exhibit’s run. Many programs were lectures, with speakers from California, New York and Pennsylvania. Topics varied from an exploration of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, to a brief history of Jewish movies and even an exploration of what remains of Baltimore’s movie theaters.
Fighting Fascism with a Movie
We also presented JMM Features, a series of three free movies screenings inspired by the exhibit. Two of the movies were screened outside in the lot across from the JMM entrance and one was shown in the JMM lobby. The movies were a huge success attracting great crowds including lots of new faces. Unfortunately we lost count of how many bags of popcorn we served but we did see the largest audience for An American Tail.
Outdoor film screenings of The Great Dictator and Gentleman’s Agreement
In total the programs attracted 612 attendees, it is interesting to note that almost all of the programs attracted an above average audience. However the most popular program was Amy Davis’ lecture Flickering Treasures, which explored Baltimore’s historic movie theatres. If you missed any of our programs we recorded the audio of three lectures which will soon be available on our website.
A variety of poster sizes on display
“Cinema Judaica” included 61 movies, which were represented by 66 different posters, lobby cards, pressbooks, trade advertisements, and the like. The images ranged in size from an 8”x10” still photo of Claude Rains (in character as Haym Salomon from Sons of Liberty) to a “six sheet” poster for The Ten Commandments measuring almost 7’ square.
An Amy Davis photo
To put a local spin on these posters, we researched the Baltimore-area movie theaters at which the films played. Thus, we were able to namecheck over 50 theaters, with eight significant venues shown in photographs. Many of the comments made by visitors focused on memories of their favorite movie houses in and around the city.
The #GoldenTevye voting box.
In the hope of engaging audiences even further, we asked visitors to vote for their favorite poster in the exhibition. During the course of the exhibit 164 votes were cast, with visitors choosing 35 of the included movies (sorry, The House I Live In and your unloved friends). The winner by a landslide was The Ten Commandments, with 22 votes (just over 13% of the total); Exodus came in second with 10 votes, followed closely by The Diary of Anne Frank and The Great Dictator, which garnered 9 votes each.
A selection of posters
In the course of researching and installing the exhibit, a number of entertaining facts came to light. For example, as I typed the cast lists of all 61 films I noticed that several actors appeared twice in this exhibit, including Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Haya Harareet. However, two actors managed to sneak in as the accidental stars of the exhibit: Character actor Hugh Griffith appears in four of the films (and won an Oscar for his role in Ben-Hur), and supporting actor George Sanders (shown here in Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent) appeared in five.
George Sanders in Foreign Correspondent
In the end, my favorite tidbit from “Cinema Judaica” is the fact that this was likely the most exclamatory exhibit we’ve ever had the honor of displaying. …Sorry, I should say: the honor of displaying! Superlatives, adjectives, and !s abounded. This is only to be expected, of course, when your gallery includes “The thrill spectacle of the year!” (Foreign Correspondent), “The mightiest motion picture ever created!” (Solomon and Sheba), and “A story timeless, tumultuous, overpowering!” (Samson and Delilah). Though only two movies had exclamation marks in the actual title (Operation Eichmann! and I Accuse!), most of the posters availed themselves of the chance to proclaim the movie’s stars, plot, or general wonderfulness with great excitement. The most excessive use was on Sodom and Gomorrah, which had 11… but lest you dismiss that as B movie excess, I’ll point out that the runner-up in the contest was the prestigious Judgement at Nuremberg, which scattered 10 exclamation marks across the poster. Through the entire exhibit, I counted 117 exclamation marks total!
Don’t be too sad – we’ll have plenty more movie action this Fall with our Folk Film Festival, Tuesday evenings in November!
Posted on August 24th, 2015 by Rachel
During my summer internship at the JMM, I had the opportunity to work on a pop-up exhibit in connection with the JMM’s Annual Summer Teachers Institute that focuses on best practices in Holocaust Education. After I learned how to use the museum software Past Perfect and learned about the JMM’s extensive collections, I was inspired to develop an exhibit. The exhibit focuses on recognizing and responding to injustices in our community. It relates to the 2015 Summer Teachers Institute’s theme: Auschwitz 70 Years Later, What have we Learned? I wanted to put some of the JMM’s collections on display and give teachers an opportunity to see what objects and materials we have in the collections that relate to topics they are teaching about the Holocaust in their classrooms.
Telling the teachers about my exhibit.
In recent years there have been many instances of injustices in our communities: locally, nationally, and worldwide. My hope is that by examining injustices during the Holocaust we can be inspired to recognize and respond to injustices in our communities today. I encouraged the teachers to reflect on this question: How can we teach our students to recognize and become “upstanders” or activists against injustices in our communities and society?
The exhibit consisted of photographs, objects, and documents about the Holocaust. Preparing for the exhibit was a lot more complex than I originally thought it would be. Some of the objects in the exhibit include: pieces of a chandelier from a desecrated synagogue during Kristallnacht, and an uncut Star of David. The exhibit also included archival materials…
This is a Mass Meeting flyer announcing a meeting for Jewish people in Baltimore to learn about what was happening to the European Jews.
The Baltimore Jewish Council booklet was established in 1939 to create a united front against Anti-semitism during World War II and provide resources on Jewish issues.
These are pictures of the Nazi and Confederate flags to show how flags represent different things to people, and can have painful associations and connections to injustices.
I had a lot of support from several staff members and interns including: Ilene, Joanna, Deborah, Karen, and collections intern Kaleigh who helped me pick appropriate objects, reviewed my labels, and helped me with the installation process. I really felt like I had the support of the staff in developing my first exhibit.
Joanna and I are cutting out texts for the exhibit.
And here I am arranging the objects in the display case.
When I installed the exhibit I was not sure how many people would be able to see it and what they would think. On Monday August 3rd over 30 teachers came to the museum for the Summer Teachers Institute. Ilene told them about my exhibit and in between workshops educators came and looked at my exhibit.
Teachers wrote comments about the exhibit.
I enjoyed telling the teachers about my exhibit. It was also great to hear some of the conversations they had about the exhibit and the connections they were making about injustices of the Holocaust and forms of injustice they see today. It was great to hear comments and dialogue between the teachers about what was in the exhibit and many of them were interested in seeing what else we had in our collections.
A blog post by Education and Programs Intern Falicia Eddy. To read more posts from interns click HERE.