Once Upon a Time…12.08.2017

Posted on August 21st, 2018 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

JMM 2012.85.7

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: December 8th and 15th, 2017

PastPerfect Accession #: 2012.085.007

Status: Partially identified! Members of the Hebrew Noble Ladies Society on a bus trip to New York City to see “Fiddler on the Roof,” March 30, 1966. Left to right: unknown, Mrs. Erdman, Jeanette Goodman, Ida Jaslow OR Aileen Poland, Florence Bernstein OR Fanny Levine, remainder unknown. If you recognize any of the remaing unidentified ladies (or think you can help solve the mystery of our two lady dopplegangers) please let us know!

Thanks To: Daniel Goodman, Phyllis Jaslow Gold Eveyln Morrison, Bert Poland, Cheryl Rosenfeld

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Reflections from the Second-Floor lounge of the USHMM

Posted on August 20th, 2018 by

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

Entering the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C., I felt as though I had entered a building that could have been located anywhere in the world. I was separated from the hustle and bustle of tourists moving between their destinations across the National Mall. Having arrived prior to the Museum’s opening, our group from the Summer Teachers Institute collected on the stairs in the Hall of Witness. I immediately knew that the Museum’s design would have a strong impact on my visit.

STI participants standing at the bottom of the staircase in the Hall of Witness. The staircase is often thought to look like a railroad track. (Want to hear more about Summer Teachers Institute? Check out Ilene’s recent blog post here.)

Different components – including the exhibit floor plan, color of the walls, light levels, scents, and sounds – within a space culminate together to influence a visitor’s experience. These elements are carefully curated by the team at USHMM. The architecture of the USHMM was not designed to reference any specific site or structure. Rather through a collection of carefully selected materials and features, the architecture eludes to the history shared inside the Museum. It is meant to evoke reflection and memories.

The lounge located after portion of the permanent exhibit The ‘Final Solution’ – 1940 to 1945 dedicated to ghettos and death camps, is an example of how a carefully curated space impacted my experience.

The second-floor lounge is a clean white space. This space, with a few benches along the wall, is where I encountered artist Sol LeWitt’s wall drawing “Consequence.” But first, let me back up a few steps. Before entering this lounge, I walked through the “Tower of Faces.” The “Tower of Faces” is a three-floor-high component of the permanent exhibit. The tower is filled from floor to ceiling with photos of families and individuals. Consisting of approximately 1000 reproduction photos, this tower is devoted to the Jewish community of the Lithuanian town of Eisiskes. This community was massacred on September 25th and 26th, 1941.

“Tower of Faces.” You can learn more about this component of the USHMM’s permanent exhibit here.

I walked out of the “Tower of Faces” feeling saturated by images of families, couples, and individuals. I saw a glimpse into these people’s personal lives and their unique stories. After exiting this tower, I was confronted with Sol LeWitt’s artwork on the wall of the lounge. The artwork is composed of five monumental squares set on a black background. Each square is a different color: purple, yellow, blue, red, and orange.. In the center of each colored square is a smaller grey square with a thin white border.

Sol LeWitt’s “Consequence” located in the second floor lounge in the permanent exhibit at USHMM.

The result is four colorful portrait frames with nothing in the middle of them. Unlike the tower immediately prior, there are no faces, no families, no personalities, and no stories. They are void. They emit emptiness.

This space provided me, and other visitors, an opportunity to reflect. To digest the information presented in the permanent exhibit. The artwork “Consequence” is poignant. Taking up the entire wall, the artwork embodies that overwhelming sense of loss.

There are numerous spaces throughout the USHMM and each is designed in an incredibly thoughtful manor. While my experience in the second-floor lounge heavily resonated with me following my visit, I am certain that when I visit again I will find another element carefully curated that impacts my experience as a visitor.

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The Interdisciplinary Approach

Posted on July 25th, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM intern Marisa Shultz. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

One of my least favorite expressions in the English language is: “I’m an English major; I can’t do math.” As an former English major myself, I’ve heard this phrase a lot: in restaurants when it’s time to split the check, in classrooms when not enough copies were made, and in all of the other various places where people in the English field are asked to deal with numbers instead of letters.

I went to a liberal arts college, Gettysburg College, if you want to be specific, and at Gettysburg, I was taught to appreciate the interconnectedness of the academic disciplines. In my English classes we talked about history, linguistics, and philosophy (three fairly obvious choices), but also science, politics, fine art, religion, and, yes, even math. In my mind, being good at English and being good at math are not mutually exclusive, and sometimes even, knowledge in both is essential to navigating and understanding our world.

This is an image of Pennsylvania Hall, one of oldest buildings of Gettysburg College’s campus. Fun fact: it was used as a hospital for both sides during the Civil War.

Okay, I feel a bit better after venting about that, but what does my very specific pet peeve have to do with museums and museum design?

Perhaps there is a more formal or codified term for this, but the interdisciplinary approach is when an activity, program, tour, lesson plan, whatever it maybe, bridges the gap between one academic discipline and another. Sometimes that bridge is small: taking the time to talk about the historical context of the Holocaust while teaching a book like Number The Stars. Or maybe the bridge is a bit bigger and you’re analyzing how Lewis Carroll infused Alice in Wonderland with hidden mathematical patterns and concepts. These examples are, of course, both geared towards an English classroom, but museums can take the same approach too.

I saw several really excellent examples of the interdisciplinary approach while touring the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History and National Gallery of Art this past Friday, and I’d like to talk a little bit about one of those examples and how it was a vitalizing force for the museum.

The interns decided that we were going to take a really interesting and unique tour at the National Gallery of art entitled: Dragons in Art. I really, really like dragons, so I was super hyped to see some paintings and learn more about this motif.

Pictured above is a sculpture depicting Saint George killing a dragon. This work is rather rare, as it was made in the 1500s out of alabaster which is a particularly fragile material. Additionally, during the reign of King Henry the VIII, many sculptures of Catholic figures were destroyed; this one survived because it was in Spain at the time. This piece was one of the stops on our Dragons in Art tour.

So not only was the topic interesting, but Bela Demeter (the docent) used to work at the National Zoo as a herpetologist and more specifically he worked with the zoo’s snakes. Demeter designed this tour based upon his particular and different interests and expertise. He hand-picked the paintings and designed supplementary materials, and he brought some really interesting and unique knowledge to the tour: he could tell us about what kind of snake was in the painting, whether or not an artist had actually seen a snake or was just giving it their best guess, how the snake and dragon motifs are intertwined, and how their portrayal changes based upon culture.

He could do this because he embraced his background, and because he was willing to bridge the gap between science and fine art. What he created was a one of a kind tour, and I left having felt that I had engaged in a special experience, one that was frankly, unforgettable.

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