JMM Insights: Stitching Things Together

Posted on July 19th, 2019 by

It’s all in the timing!  Coordinating exhibit schedules is a task in itself, and when two exhibits occupy the same gallery this can be tricky. This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church who will keep the story of Fashion Statement going through mid-September (with a little timely help from our friends). Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


The Feldman Gallery currently holds two separate, but related exhibits: Fashion Statement, created by the JMM, and Stitching History from the Holocaust, created by the Jewish Museum Milwaukee (The other JMM!). We’ve been humbled and grateful for the positive attention these two exhibits have garnered since we opened them in early April (and even before!)

JMore reported on the fact that we would be displaying Gil Sandler’s porkpie hat way back in August of 2018. We were frontpage news for the JewishTimes. JMore named the exhibit a Top Event Pick for April 2019 and went on to dive deep in the whys and hows of the two exhibits with a feature story.

WJZ came to see us twice. Once in their “Coffee With” segment in May and then again for a morning segment on June 23, the day of the Jonestown Festival. Marvin joined his counterpart from the American Visionary Art Museum for an appearance on WYPR’s Midday with Tom Hall. Midday at the Museums discussed the ways the two museums address the Holocaust through textiles in current exhibits.

Attention from the press is amazing. As important is the attention we get from our educator partners. We especially love it when the exhibit in the gallery and students’ experiences in our historic synagogues work together to create discoveries and memories. A few highlights from our teachers, include:

“I just want to thank you again for the field trip yesterday to the museum.  The students were engaged and excited about what they learned and saw.  The amount of time was just perfect.  The activities were so appropriate, and your staff was wonderful and patient.”

“The students and parents all talked about how much they enjoyed their time at the museum.  The students said that they liked learning out the old clothing, the bathing rituals, the synagogue, the Old Testament scrolls, the arc in the synagogue, and the history of the building.  It has been a week and a half, and they still remember a ton!” 

Splitting the gallery the way we did for Fashion Statement and Stitching History from the Holocaust is a great way to maximize our use of the space. It allowed us to get all of this great attention, and share even more stories with our visitors … but what happens when one of those exhibits needs to close sooner than the other?

Stitching History will be closing here on August 5th (so if you haven’t yet had the chance to see it, make your plans now!); after a brief rest, it will go on display again at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida. That leaves us with a slice of gallery to fill until September 15th, when Fashion Statement closes in its turn and we begin to prepare the gallery for Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling. As we have done often during this clothing-focused year, we’ve turned to Stevenson University and the Stitching Maryland Together project for assistance.

Stevenson’s design students were a tremendous help with our Fashion Statement interactives.

We were also delighted to be part of the Stitching Maryland Together short documentary film project, which premiered at Expedition I, the fashion design school’s gala runway show and senior showcase held May 4, 2019 at Ram’s Head Live. A few members of the JMM staff took the opportunity to attend the event, and – speaking for myself, at least – were awed by the talent and skill displayed by these students, from the fashion collections to the documentary to the logistics of pulling off an event of this scale.

We’ve offered the use of our slice-of-gallery to the fashion department at Stevenson, and while we don’t know yet quite what that will look like – we’re hoping to get some of the clothing featured during the runway show itself! – keep your eyes open for more information on our continued collaboration with these talented young men and women.


 

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Object-Based Learning at the JMM

Posted on May 30th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!


With students growing up in an ever-increasing digital world, museums offer object-based learning that powerfully engages them in an authentic experience.

What is object-based learning? Simply put, it is using objects to facilitate learning. An object can be a kippah, a t-shirt, or a synagogue. Objects provide a direct link to the past. They are vehicles for stories. Sometimes a single story. Sometimes multiple stories. The JMM has over 12,000 objects – just imagine all the unique stories they tell about Jewish Marylanders.

The JMM’s original exhibit Fashion Statement has several never-before-exhibited objects from our collections. These objects tell stories from the late 1880s to the present day. Not all of the stories for these objects could fit into the exhibit, you can read more about them here. 

Visually, an object provides only a few clues to tell what it is and why it is important. This limited initial information provides students the opportunity to ask a lot of questions. Guided analysis of objects invites students to have an active role in the process of discovery. Students are encouraged to look at an object with curiosity. They are asked what they notice and what they wonder about an object. They “read” the object for clues about the story it tells.

During our Fashion Statement educational program, students from Annapolis Area Christian School made observations about the items of clothing on display. Students noticed whether the item is clean or dirty. Why does it have a stain? They noticed that the object is small. How old do you think someone was when they wore this?  

As a tangible remnant of the past, objects make history real and relatable for students. Using objects to facilitate discussions enables students to develop different skills, including observational skills, inquiry skills, and the ability to draw conclusions. Rather than being didactically told the correct answer, students communicate with each other to come to a consensus. Leading the discussion and asking questions as a group builds a sense of confidence in students, making them active participates instead of passive listeners.

Students from Northwood Elementary School discuss their observations before collectively deciding what the best answer to the question is.

During the education program for Fashion Statement, once students made observations about an object, they thought of open-ended questions that they would want to ask the person who wore the item. This encourages students to think about another place or another time when the object was being used. This curiosity is encouraged and transformed into creativity when students write stories about their objects.

Students are challenged to consider what we can, and what we can’t learn (without doing some extra research) from objects. Furthermore, in the Fashion Statement exhibit, students consider what we can, or can’t, learn about people through their clothing. What parts of someone’s story we can learn, and what parts we are still curious about.

Students from John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School worked together to create stories of their objects from Fashion Statement.

Looking at the objects on display in Fashion Statement, students made connections to their own lives. Do they like the item of clothing? Would they wear it? What does their clothing say about them? What can’t others learn about them from their clothing?

Object-based learning provides a tangible connection to a story. It directly connects to a person, place, time period, or event. Rather than reading a book in their classroom, students “read” an object to answer questions and draw conclusions about the past and present. The process of asking questions (and figuring out which questions to ask) about an object is just as important as discovering the answers.

The JMM houses numerous everyday objects that tell the stories of Jewish Maryland. Everybody has a story to tell. What everyday object would you choose for future students to use to learn about your story?

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Check the Label

Posted on April 19th, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Tracie Guy-Decker, deputy director. She’s sharing a behind-the-scenes look at one aspect of the development of our two newest exhibits, Fashion Statement and Stitching History from the Holocaust. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


When I was about 7, I really wanted Jordache jeans. It was the early eighties. They were twice the cost of the Wranglers, but they also brought a currency with them the Wranglers just didn’t have. The Wranglers might have fit, but I believed the Jordache would help me fit in.

Despite my first-grader experience with jeans, historically, clothing labels were usually hidden from everyone but the wearer. Their generally “hidden” status makes the importance of labels all the more remarkable. Clothing labels can carry a lot of weight – I don’t mean literal pounds, but rather intellectual, sociological, and emotional heft.

Labels are a way for designers and manufacturers to make their mark (literally) and for clothing wearers to assert their belongingness to social circles. This ubiquitous “artifact within the artifact”—and all the associations it brings with it—is a common thread between Fashion Statement and Stitching History From the Holocaust.

Our wonderful “Fashion Statement” logo, by Jeremy Hoffman of Ashton Design, was inspired by several of the local clothing labels in the JMM collections (for details, see the end of this post). From the stitched border to the swooping, elegant font, Jeremy captured the essence of a high-end dressmaker, tailor, or department store’s look, without directly copying any particular shop’s logo.

We worked with Jeremy and his team through several iterations to get to the final design. Both the JMM and the Ashton Design team looked and thought deeply about the implications of font choice, word placement and size, and the relationship between the words in the logo to each other. The images above may look incredibly similar, but to a designer’s eye, the tiniest details matter!

For the in-gallery version of the logo—the first thing you see as you enter the gallery—the Ashton team came up with the brilliant idea of actually stitching the letters. They designed a board with pre-drilled holes at the appropriate places to allow them to render their existing logo design in a thick thread. The effect is of a giant clothing label.

Our colleagues at the other JMM (Jewish Museum Milwaukee) and at the Costume Shop that created Hedwig Strnad’s designs for Stitching History From the Holocaust also approached their work with an understanding of the power of the clothing label.

As they poured their hearts and passion into the project of making Hedy’s designs real, the artists at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Costume Shop decided that the dresses needed a label. Regardless of how finished the dresses might look, they could not be complete without a label to identify their designer.

Hedy’s signature, found after several years of research into her story, was used to create her own label, one that—at least for these dresses—she sadly never achieved in reality.  Hedy’s label transforms a very personal element from one of the surviving letters and creates a brand identity out of it. When we see it applied it to the professional, stylish recreations of her designs, we are reminded both of the power and importance of the clothing label, and the talent and skill Hedy could have brought to the American fashion industry, had her story ended differently.

If you haven’t seen them, yet, we invite you to come and see Fashion Statement and Stitching History at the JMM. And whether you’ve seen them or not, try to pay attention to clothing labels for a few days. What reactions do you have when you see them in your own clothes or in the store? You might be surprised at how the label alone can evoke thoughts or emotions. After all, clothing is a language. We use it to communicate with one another about who we are and where (and with whom) we belong. Labels are one form of punctuation in that unspoken language.


Label Collage:

1. Jeannette Beck, Baltimore, Maryland. Gift of Isidore Schnaper, JMM 1992.112.2. 

2. D. Adler, Ladies’ Tailor, Baltimore. From fur-trimmed opera coat owned by Anne Adler Salganik (daughter of David Adler, the tailor in question). Gift of Gordon J. Salganik, JMM 1990.133.2.

3. (top) M. Greenberg, Merchant Tailor, Baltimore, Md. Roll of nine unused labels. Gift of Zelda Cohen, JMM 1988.159.2.

3. (bottom) G.F. Adler Sons, Designers and Tailors, Baltimore. Roll of nine unused labels. Gift of Ruth Lev, JMM 1990.10.6a.

4. Florence Esther – Baltimore. From a custom-made cloche hat owned by Margot Zipper (object 34 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Margot Zipper, JMM 2013.58.2.

5. Charlow, Custom Tailors, Since 1899. Gift of Kenneth Charlow, JMM 1990.203.5.

6. Wolf Cohn, founded 1895, Baltimore, Md. From a bespoke ladies’ suit jacket owned by Naomi Biron Cohen. Gift of Maxine A. Cohen, JMM 2004.114.1.

7. Minna Myerburg, Pikesville, Md. From a satin evening gown owned by Margot Zipper (photo accompanies object 34 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Margot Zipper, JMM 2013.58.4.

8. Estelle-Fanchon, Baltimore. From a pink chiffon dress worn by Sara Fox Hettleman. Gift of Ellen Kahan Zager, JMM 2015.45.2.

9. K. Katz & Sons, Tailors, Baltimore. From morning coat owned by Samuel Sakols (object 16 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Blanche Sakols Schimmel, JMM 1987.39.2.

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