A Visit to Gettysburg and the Seminary Ridge Museum

Posted on July 3rd, 2013 by

On the last Friday in June, just ahead of the enormous sesquicentennial crowds, JMM’s education department made a field trip to Gettysburg.  The central purpose of the trip was to gain inspiration for hands-on activities for school groups and families.   We intend to add these experiences to Passages through the Fire:  Jews and the American Civil War, a traveling exhibit opening at JMM on October 13, 2013.  They let me come along for the ride.

935802_213278468823337_112805752_n (1)There were conversations with re-enactors, a visit to a sutler (the supplier of re-enactment gear) and one more high point (literally): the Seminary Ridge Museum.  It was a last-minute decision to make this a part of my visit.  Barbara Franco, the director of this new museum, is a treasured friend and colleague.  I had remembered that the Seminary Ridge Museum was opening as part of the Gettysburg commemorations, but from a flyer I suddenly realized that it was in fact 48 hours from opening its doors to the public.  I took a chance and made an unannounced appearance, and Barbara was extremely gracious, taking time from her last minute preparations to offer me a preview of the facility.

Seminary Old Dorm, 1915 era. Image courtesy Seminary Ridge Museum.

Seminary Old Dorm, 1915 era. Image courtesy Seminary Ridge Museum.

The three upper floors of the building tell three stories about three roles that the Lutheran Seminary and specifically this building, Schmucker Hall, played in US History.  The top floor tells the story of July 1, 1863, the day Gen. John Buford went to the cupola atop the building and decided that the Union would take up a defensive position here, determining that this would be the site for one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War.  The floor below tells the story of the Seminary as field hospital, serving the wounded at the end of the battle.

994497_213278558823328_1071471798_nBut the lower exhibit floor, entitled “Faith and Freedom”, really intrigued me.  It tells the story of Christian clergy, churches and seminaries in relationship to the struggle over slavery and its abolition.  I had spent a fair amount of time in June looking at the records of the Lloyd Street Synagogue at the outset of the war and re-reading the sermons/writing of Rabbi Illoway and Rabbi Einhorn as the debate over slavery made its way through Baltimore in 1861 (see Todd’s blog post from last Friday).  The parallels in the arguments within the Christian and Jewish community were quite remarkable.  It’s not just that both communities’ leaders cited the same biblical passages to make their respective cases, it’s also that in both communities the argument about slavery became wrapped up in larger theological questions of reform vs. tradition.   Rev. Schmucker’s Lutheran church even had a dispute over the use of English rather than German in congregational rituals that echoes debates in the German Jewish community of the period.

Image courtesy of Seminary Ridge Museum.

Image courtesy of Seminary Ridge Museum.

I found the exhibit very thought-provoking and hope to work with Barbara on an exchange of programs during the period when Passages through the Fire is on display here in Baltimore.  In the meantime, if you are headed to Gettysburg for to see the 150th, this is a new feature not to be missed.

MarvinA blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read other posts by Marvin, click here!

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Gettysburg: A Jumping-Off Point for Civil War Education

Posted on July 2nd, 2013 by

Marissa WalkerA blog post by Education Intern Marissa Walker. To read additional posts by Marissa and other interns, click here.

Last Friday, the Education and Programs department took a work trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We had recently been discussing the museum’s upcoming Jews in the Civil War exhibit extensively with the museum’s curator, Karen Falk, and were hoping to gain some inspiration through an exploration of the famous Civil War battlefield.

image 1After a brief peek into the Visitor Center, we grabbed a map and began our journey through history on the first leg of the Auto Tour around the historic site. With Education Director Ilene at the wheel and Programs Manager Rachel ceremoniously guiding us through the tour map with much gusto, we immersed ourselves in the story of America’s bloodiest battle. There could be no self-respecting historic battle recap without historically accurate background music and sound effects, so I provided the bugle blares, while intern Trillion banged the theoretical drums, and visitor coordinator Abby filled out the treble clef with some excellent “fife” playing.  We felt very patriotic, indeed.

image 2After exploring the first half of the auto tour and the northern portion of the battlefield, we backtracked to the town surrounding the site and met Museum President Marvin Pinkert for a very productive brainstorming lunch. During our meal, we discussed possible educational programs and activities to include in the package we might offer school groups coming to see the Civil War exhibit in the fall.

image 3One idea we tossed around was a “Make a Monument” activity. In theory, kids would design their own monument, explain what it represents, write about why they chose to commemorate that particular person, event, or place. This idea sprung from our amazement at all the different monuments and commemorations found all over the Gettysburg battlefield, each one immortalizing a different person or group of people, and completely unique.

image 7We had also had a chance to speak with a few living historians during our visit, and agreed that a great addition to the exhibit might be a very simple military-issue tent set up, where young kids would be able to interact with the living quarters typical of a soldier during the Civil War time period. Sutlers, a stores specializing in historically accurate reproductions of clothing, utensils, and general accouterments of soldiers and their families on the home front, typically carry these kinds of items, so we decided to go out in search of one before we began our drive back.

image 6After an enjoyable walk and a lovely, if slightly unexpected, rain shower, we found one! It was delightful to browse through all of the interesting items re-enactors use on a daily basis to authenticate their characters, and to see the world of possibilities for kids programs and activities. Feeling exhilarated and excited to bring our ideas to fruition, we parted ways with Marvin, and headed back to the car, and south towards Baltimore, intent on incorporating all we had learned into our future museum education plans.

Check back tomorrow for a different perspective on the Gettysburg field trip from none other than our Executive Director Marvin Pinkert!

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The Secret Lives of Interns: Week 5

Posted on July 8th, 2009 by

Week Five brought the introduction of Heather, our last (but certainly not least!) summer intern. Heather is working in the education department and helping out with exhibitions as well!

I assisted with inventory of the gift shop on Monday, led 2 groups of first and second graders through the Voices of Lombard St tour with Simone for SuperKids camp on Tuesday, and thoroughly enjoyed the Intern Field Trip on Wednesday. I also started reviewing info on the LSS to assist with planning interactives for the new exhibit and jotting down several ideas to bounce off of Jenn, Anita and Deb W. A great first week here – makes me excited for the next 9! – Heather

Whew! That’s a LOT of interns!

When noon rolled around Jobi Zink, official intern wrangler (and Senior Collections Manager) escorted the interns to Little Italy for lunch at one of the JMM’s favorite restaurants: Amicci’s!

Out to lunch!

After lunch all the interns headed up to the nearby Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. Interns started out in the gift shop before being escorted into the conservation lab.

Alison and Sean are especially excited by the fume tube.

Then they got a sneak peek into the Lewis’ storage rooms, checking out the automatic compact shelving (moves with just one touch of a button!), artwork cages and getting a chance to see a few objects up close and personal.

Checking out the art storage.


This French military uniform holds everyone’s attention.

After the back scenes tour the interns took a turn through the Lewis’ current exhibition East Side Stories and watched a video created by the History Channel, featured in the lobby of the museum.



Interns in the Lewis’s East Side Stories exhibition


The field trip concluded at the Star Spangled Banner Flag House, right next door to the Lewis. The interns were introduced to the variety of American flags on display, cataloging the 28 changes the flag has gone through. They learned all about the history of the Flag House, the Star Spangled Banner and our National Anthem. Apparently the Children’s Activity Room was a big hit!

The interns (and Jobi!) try on a few 19th century looks.

The intern field trip this week made me realize how much better the JMM is than other institutions but also opened my eyes to what could be expanded here. When we went to the Flag house museum they very impersonal, they just plopped us down in front of a video and allowed us to wander through the museum after that. I’d much preferred a guide, even in a place as small as that, just in case I’d have questions. The building also was not very secure, granted there were signs saying “do not enter” but it was unlocked and easily accessible to whomever wanted to go in. On the brighter side, in comparison, the JMM has a solid secure building and the volunteers and staff are very personable, so it made me appreciate where I work a lot more. But, I also noticed what changes could be made here at the JMM after seeing the Lewis Museum facility. They had a conservation lab, all to itself, and that was really exciting to see, granted with the right funding that’d be a possibility but it’s something we don’t have here. Also noticed how secure their building was with monitors in each room on the ceilings as well as card access to doors in collections storage and back rooms. Every artifact had enough space to breathe and some. It was very detailed. The JMM is very precise as well, we just don’t have the space and some artifacts don’t get much wiggle room, which is probably another case of money. But over all it was a good learning experience and I enjoyed the content of the trip. – Sean


From a New York perspective, it felt great to be able to walk to these museums in one day. As we all know, Baltimore is not exactly walking friendly. The museums were small; however they had just enough to grasp their essence. These museums are all really there to recognize and appreciate what past and present citizens of Maryland have contributed to their communities. Kudos to all museum staff, and anyone who has contributed to a museum in Maryland.They have worked hard to recognize individuals who would have been forgotten and erased from history. – Giselle

It’s a right gaggle of interns!

Seeing all the good stuff in the basement of the JMM including the permanent wave machine (that must be what you guys use on your “problem interns”), lunch at Amicci’s, information overload at the Lewis, and revisiting my inner child while coloring at the Flag House Museum were among the highlights [of my first week]. – Heather

But it’s not all fun, games and field trips!



Last week, I spent a lot of time making outreach calls to local Jewish organizations. Realizing that the information provided was outdated and incomplete, I began compiling a recent comprehensive list of Jewish organizations and their important contacts including addresses, phone numbers and e-mails. I also finalized logo and food information regarding the companies which are to provide for the “Brews and Schmooze” event. – Rebecca

Last week was again filled with a hodgepodge of activities and tasks. I am STILL working on transcribing Seymour Attman’s oral history. It’s taking a long time partly because I only work on it in between other tasks, and partly because transcribing is just a lot harder than I thought it would be! Though now I have Shelby, the other curatorial intern, to commiserate with, so that’s nice. When we weren’t wearing out the stop and rewind buttons on the cassette players, Shelby and I researched the history of food packaging so we could find props for a section of the Chosen Food exhibit. I can now tell someone the history of the tin can! Unfortunately, we also found that there just isn’t a whole lot of difference between food packaging in, say, the 1830’s in the U.S. and in 1870’s in Russia, so I’m not sure just how useful our research will be in the long run. At the very least, I’ve been beefing up my store of random trivia! – Abby

Crazily enough, for many of our interns this week marked the halfway point! A few of them took the time to reflect on the weeks passed:

My past couple of weeks at the JMM have been extremely interesting and eye opening. The staff has been wonderful in training us in the proper techniques and usage of different materials. Every week is new and exciting. This particular week we have been working over at the BHU sifting through old archives and really getting a taste for what museum collections is about. I have learned a great deal about museum management and the level of time and effort it takes to store, and inventory a collection. There is so much work that goes into one exhibit, and I have gained a new admiration and respect for the time, energy, artistry, and thought it takes when one views an exhibit. History is such an important part of who everyone is, it helps individuals learn, grow, and evolve into better human beings, which is why Museums are such a necessary part of society. Every time I find a new or interesting article, picture, or object while doing inventory it always makes me think. The JMM has opened my eyes to so many things. I hold a lot of admiration for each individual staff member and thank them for keeping things fun and lively. They have each taught me something different, and I know I will be able to take something great away from the JMM. – Berkley

It seems crazy to be half way finished with the internship. It’s funny how quickly you become comfortable in a new environment – I feel like it’s been longer than a few weeks. In these first five weeks, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the JMM and about the variety of tasks that go on during the day. So far, I’ve gotten the chance to do inventory, begin processing a collection and work on its finding aid, learn the ins and outs of the wonderful program that is PastPerfect and take some very fun field trips – my favorite probably being to the Lewis and seeing their awesome conservation lab and collections storage. – Alison

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