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Studying Abroad: Where Museum Personalities Clash

Posted on August 2nd, 2017 by

By collections intern Amy Swartz. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

A few weeks ago we were tasked with reading pieces of John H Falk’s Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. For our weekly blog post that week, I wrote a bit about my initial reactions to the piece. However, while reading parts of the book I was really struck by his museum visitor’s model as I myself have inhabited those many models at different points in my life. This past spring I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and had the amazing opportunity to visit many European countries. As someone who loves museums so much that I want to work in one for the rest of my life, all of my trips included some type of museum visit. During these museum visits, depending on which museum I visited and who I was with, my identity flipped and flopped.

Falk’s five identities are explorer, facilitator, experience seeker, professional/hobbyist, and recharger. I am most often an explorer. I go into museums seeking to discover, I pick and chose what I spend my time on, and I often have some background knowledge. When I am with my friends, who are often experience seekers but sometimes explorers, I often am in a semi-facilitator role. I want them to learn and enjoy their visit so that we can actively discuss it. However, while in Europe my identity was in flux. I found that in my experience there are two types of museum experience for those who are studying abroad and traveling: the explorer and the experience seeker.

A ship in the Viking Museum, Oslo, Norway

A ship in the Viking Museum, Oslo, Norway

The explorer traveler finds museums in new cities and decides that a museum visit would be a good way to learn about the city or country’s culture. They go simply because they think it would be a cool experience and are more likely to go to a museum that is either free or has a museum discount rather than an expensive museum. My time in Oslo fits this description. My sister and I did not know what to do in the city, especially since it was rather rainy our whole trip and the city is quite expensive. We bought a museum pass, which was a great purchase and visited the Fram Museum and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, among others. I approached each visit solely as an explorer. I came in without any expectations or assumptions and simply enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

One of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

One of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

The experience seeker finds themselves at museums while abroad for the great or well-known works housed inside. They often operate on a limited schedule and work to check certain things off their bucket list The best example of this was my time in Paris. While at the Louvre, my best friend and I saw a lot but we narrowed down our visit to the greats: the Mona Lisa (an obvious choice), the Nike of Samothrace, and the Venus de Milo. We quickly went to the Le Musée de l’Orangerie next, only glancing in some galleries in order to get to Monet’s Water Lilies.

Me and my host sisters in the Kusama exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Me and my host sisters in the Kusama exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Other museums I visited brought out both personalities. While in Denmark I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art with my visiting host family. Majority of my time there I was an explorer, hungrily consuming information. The Louisiana has an amazing collection and while there I actually saw a lot of works I later learned about in my Women, Art, and Identity course. However, I was also an experience-seeker as there was a well-known exhibit by Yayoi Kusama called Gleaming Lights of the Souls. In that moment I had to see it just to see it and have that experience – it was worth a bit of a wait, which turned out to be nothing based on the wait at the Hirshhorn Museum which had hours long wait lines.

I’ve found that one’s identity at a museum is very dependent on the circumstances of the visit. That’s why it is always beneficial for a museum to cater to multiple identities – which JMM does very well through its various educational programs, exhibits, and lectures.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Friedenwald and France: A Connection I Was Not Expecting

Posted on June 25th, 2015 by


My work as an exhibitions intern centers around an upcoming exhibit called Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. However, I am also preparing to spend nine months studying abroad in Toulouse, France, beginning in September of this year. I’ve been studying French since middle school, so this has been a longstanding interest of mine. This internship is keeping me busy so that I am not constantly worrying about this big change I’ll be encountering come September. But there have already been a few times this summer when a project has reminded me of my upcoming travels to France.

I’ve come across a collection of images that create a connection between France and the Jews & Medicine exhibit. The Friedenwald family was a sort of medical dynasty in Baltimore, with multiple family members succeeding in the medical field. It just so happens that they are featured in the Jews & Medicine exhibit, but there are also images in the collection with France as the subject.

JMM 1984.023.196

JMM 1984.023.196

This is a postcard of a statue of Edward Jenner, the pioneer of the smallpox vaccine and often called the father of immunology. He was an English physician, but the statue is in Boulogne Sur Mer, France. This image connected my projects on medical history here at JMM to France, reminding me of what is to come. These seem like random connections, but to me they are much more. They link passions to my present and future experiences, allowing me to enjoy my work here and get excited for the Fall at the same time.

JMM 1984.023.1421

JMM 1984.023.1421

This is just a simple photograph of the Eiffel Tower in 1931, but it is also in the Friedenwald collection. Imagine that you have two passions, but at this point in your life they have remained somewhat separate. And then something happens and you are able to experience the two interests at the same time. This is how I feel. My interests in museums and France can certainly be linked, but I do not often experience their connection unless I am reading a newspaper article or am actually in a French museum. But here they are linked; here I am able to think about them together.

JMM 1985.090.031

JMM 1985.090.031

This image is from a different collection, but it highlights an interest as well. It is a photograph of servicemen and servicewomen along with civilians sitting at rows of tables for a Passover seder in a synagogue in Reims, France, in March 1945. This is personally interesting not only because I’ll be traveling in France, but also because I am Jewish. I’m excited for the opportunity to learn about Jewish culture in France, and hopefully I will be able to celebrate Jewish holidays while in France just like the seder in this photo.

Before the summer began, I knew I’d be working on the Jews & Medicine exhibit, but I did not know that a collection used for the exhibit would also connect to my study abroad plans. This has allowed me to recognize both passions, instead of pushing one aside while working on the other.
SophiaA blog post by Exhibitions Intern Sophia Brocenos. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Maryland Soldiers in World War I

Posted on September 13th, 2012 by

For the rest of the year we will be posting a series of blogs on the second Thursday of each month that highlight some of our collections related to World War I.  Each post will focus on a single topic illustrated with photographs, objects and archives from the museum’s collections.  This first post will focus on the troops.

Benjamin H. Goldstein on a bench, c. 1918. Courtesy of Agota Gold. 2002.73.75

Though the rest of the world waged war throughout Europe, Asia and Africa starting in 1914, the United States did not officially enter the fray until April 1917.  Despite a strong desire by many Americans to stay neutral, the US government had been building up the military before the declaration of war, and mobilization increased quickly after.  Over the next two years, young men from every state in the union entered the military – some willing, some drafted.  Not everyone wanted war, but once it started government propaganda did its best to stir up patriotism and support.

Troops parade down Baltimore Street near Calvert in 1918. Parades and other festivities would have helped stir patriotism and promote cohesion among Americans. Perhaps these young men were new recruits marching off toward their training bases, or maybe they were heading directly toward the war in Europe, either way, this celebration and apparent support from the civilian population must have bolstered them. Courtesy of Stanford C. Reed. 1987.19.22

The enlisted soldiers, who made up the bulk of the army, were ethnically diverse – a full quarter of the soldiers spoke no English and African Americans constituted more than 10% of the troops.  This was not new or unusual.  American troops throughout history included immigrants as well as native-born men.  The Jewish troops from Maryland would also have been a mixture of recent immigrants and descendents of men and women who had come to America during the nineteenth century.

Stanford Z. Rothschild, Sr. in front of his billet (the Rifand family home) in Tours, France during his service in World War I, 1918. Stanford immigrated to America as a child with his parents. Courtesy of Stanford Z. Rothschild. 1991.127.20

Once in the army the young soldiers shipped out to the training camps that sprouted up around the country.  These camps brought both business and headaches to the surrounding residents.  Men shipped out to parts of the country they had never seen before.  Lester Levy, a Maryland native, went to Augusta, Georgia for training in 1918.

Lester Levy’s army camp, Augusta, GA, 1918. Courtesy of Janet Fishbein (daughter of Susan Levy Bodenheimer), Ellen Patz, Ruth Gottesman & Vera Mende. 2002.79.569

Though the bulk of young men were destined for the trenches, others filled a variety of positions that keep the military running.  Only a few short years after the invention of the airplane, men like J. Jefferson Miller (a Baltimorean) became the first military aviators.  Nicholas Beser was a cartoonist for the Stars and Stripes which reported news to the soldiers.  Others were doctors or musicians, or provided any number other services that made the army function.

J. Jefferson Miller, Aviators Flight Log Book. Courtesy of the Weiler-Miller Fund. 2008.76.35 Nicholas Beser and friends in camp in France. Courtesy of the Beser Family. 1993.173.29

Nicholas Beser and friends in camp in France. Courtesy of the Beser Family. 1993.173.29

Print room of Stars and Stripes in Paris. Courtesy of the Beser Family. 1993.173.42


Honors and memorials for soldiers who fought and died during World War I began soon after the war ended.  Besides the public or government honors (statues and medals) individuals and private companies would sometimes recognize the veterans connected to them.

Tablet in honor of M.S. Levy and Sons employees who fought in World War I. T1989.4.1


Next month we will look at the role of women in World War I.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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