Intern Thoughts: A Weekly Response

Posted on July 21st, 2016 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to read and respond to one of two readings, selected chapters from Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience or selections from “Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem.”

The Importance of Audience

In Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience, Falk lays out the types of visitors a museum needs to cater to in order to create a successful experience. The types vary from the ‘explorer’, who wants to learn as much as they can while wandering through the exhibit and resents overly structured exhibits that create a linear “forced march” to the end. At the other end of the spectrum lie the ‘social facilitators’, who seek out a museum as a place they can catch up with friends. For them, the content of the exhibit is secondary. Visitors use the museum in different ways. Falk rightly points out that museums too often rely upon insubstantial demographic data (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, income, education level) to determine whether someone will visit their institution rather than information about their values and goals. The values that bring them to the museum in the first place, he argues, will drive their whole experience.

At its core, this chapter is about audience, a concept that I know from my training as a writing tutor is essential to address when creating anything from novels to labels in a museum exhibit. For instance, an exhibit that is very text-dense might be alienating to visitors who prefer to move through the gallery quickly. Falk encourages museum professionals to think as if they were a certain type of visitor. What would a ‘recharger’, who values a pleasant environment and seating, think of the way the lobby is set up? What would they like to see more of? Falk’s work really speaks to the universality of challenge of audience.

Alice_SMBCaudiencecomic JPEG, caption: Even musicians need to consider audience! Here, the speaker’s age alienates him from enjoying pop music. (Original comic can be found at

Even musicians need to consider audience! Here, the speaker’s age alienates him from enjoying pop music. (Original comic can be found HERE)

~Alice Wynd

Increasing Museum Influence through the Internet

This week I read a selection from the Center for the Future of Museums titled “Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem.” The two articles that struck me the most were about the Henry Ford Museum and how it is using the internet to reach wider audiences of learners. Museums as stationary institutions need visitors to travel to them whereas the internet is available everywhere. Many now have internet access in their own homes and if they do not, public libraries offer internet access around the country. The internet removes geographical barriers of museum learning.

The Henry Ford Museum is located in Dearborn, Michigan. It houses treasures like the Rosa Parks Bus and the chair from the theater where President Lincoln was shot as he watched a play. These important pieces of American History are far away from many, but the museum has allowed people to become virtual visitors. They have created an interactive website that allows people to read articles and watch videos about museum exhibits and more.

The Rosa Parks Bus, Restored and Displayed by the Henry Ford Museum.

The Rosa Parks Bus, Restored and Displayed by the Henry Ford Museum.

Here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we have created a virtual online supplement to the temporary physical exhibit, “Beyond Chicken Soup,” currently on display in the museum. There are online articles based on the different sections and organized by the way one would see them here. While it is not a complete substitute for seeing the exhibit itself, it gives those who do not have access to the museum a chance at learning and those who have access a chance to explore ideas further.


~Rebecca Miller

Museum Visitor types

For an activity on visitor services I recently read Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience by John H. Falk, particularly the chapters discussing the types of museum visitors, which give some insight into what different visitors are looking from their museum experience. Falk says, more important than background or ethnicity is what type of museum goer a person is. Falk classifies museum goers into five groups, the experience seekers, the explorers, the facilitators, the hobbyist/professionals, and the relaxers. An experience seeker goes to museums to see their main exhibit or special items of interest; they may give a cursory look at the other exhibits. An explorer is the visitor most likely to look over every part of the museum as they are interested in learning. The hobbyist/professional is also interested in learning but they are bound to have a solid knowledge base and are looking to learn more in depth knowledge. The facilitator goes to museums more for the benefit of others, whether it is an outing with friends or a parent bringing their children to a museum.  The last group of people is coming to the museum to relax and is most likely to sit in a few exhibits for an extended period of time.

The only problem is, these classifications are not constant. During the activity the other interns and I tried to identify what type of museum visitors we were, and found that most of us fall into several categories depending on the type of museum we are visiting, why we are there, and what exhibits are on display. I can fall into the category of explorer, experience seeker or hobbyist depending on the museum.  I interned at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine over the past spring, and was going through docent training. As I went through that museum, I went through as an explorer, reading every panel and looking at every artifact in anticipation of possible questions I might get from tour groups.  When I went to the National Geographic Museum for their exhibit on Indiana Jones I went as an experience seeker with my main goal being to see the prop Arc of the Covent.  At museums where I have been several times, like the Walters, I go more as a hobbyist, going directly to specific exhibits of personal interest.  One might be able to determine what type of museum visitor a person is when they come by asking some background questions, such as their previous knowledge in the area before going into exhibits or if they come with other people or alone. I don’t think it is likely to be able to predict what type of visitor a person is going to be at other museums.

~Tamara Schlossenberg

Learning Outside The Classroom

Building The Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem does an excellent job of explaining the current education system and it’s inherent flaws. As an education major, I have spend the last several years studying the origins and shortcoming of public education, as well as how to combat it in individual classrooms.

The current climate of education is based largely on forcing students to confirm to certain standards that the government finds most suitable. While this is well intentioned, it has proven to be disastrous in recent years. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which was passed by President Bush in 2001 had disastrous consequences including, but not limited to, an increased drop out rate. Education under NCLB leads to conformity rather than variety and creativity, as seen in the cartoons below. This problem stems from the officials in Washington trying to pass legislation to effect countless communities across the nation. Education does not happen in offices with congressmen, it happens in classrooms with teachers and their students.

The ideas presented in this article can effectively combat the stagnant nature of education. The ideas described focus on everything I plan on doing as a teacher. The “Vibrant Learning Grid” focuses on creating personalized learning systems that meet the needs of all learners. This is contrary to programs like NCLB, which insist on teaching students a narrow spectrum of topics that they mot not be suited for. Furthermore, many of their programs are interactive lessons and programs. There is a mountain of research supporting the idea that interactive styles of teaching are far more beneficial than lecture-based lessons.

To conclude, I think the article did an excellent job explaining how museums can be used to further American education. A personal, interactive form of teaching is the best mode that can be used to teach a new topic to students.

~Ben Snyder

The Henry Ford Museums IEI and the Lie of Modern American Ingenuity

Some museums and institutions of learning aside from traditional primary and secondary schools are pioneering new ways to educate children and get them excited about innovation and invention. One such destination is the Henry Ford Museum and its subsidiary educational properties, which is offering a new multi-media plan and innovation incubator to inspire the inventors of tomorrow with tales of inventors from the past and the American spirit of ingenuity.

Although an excellent way to inspire children to go into the fields of engineering and product development, and certainly to induce creativity and open minded thinking, there is a larger problem lurking in the world of invention that blocks any progress that plans like the one above intend to make.

This is mainly because of what are called patent attorney fees and patent filing fees, which are required in order to publish an invention, and to be entitled to the capital made from its production and sale. These fees can range from hundreds of dollars to several tens of thousands, and there is no definite way of estimating them. This leaves the self motivated inventor in somewhat of a quandary. If the wish to innovate independently, then they might require substantial personal wealth in order to file a patent which they intend to profit off of. In other cases, inventors can file their patents through a corporation, which pays the cost of filing, but does not entitle the inventor to the profits of the invention’s production and sale.

As hard as we may try to inspire our youth with American ideals of ingenuity and invention, and the creative methods that we use to do so, there are deeper economic and societal problems that must be solved. Otherwise, those we inspire will enter a world where they are exploited, and which is rigged against them, favoring corporations and the independently wealthy, rather than those who we try to encourage with programs like IEI.

~David Agronin

A Café Can Go A Long Way

Much as I love museum gift shops and cafes, I admittedly considered them to be a bit frivolous compared to the rest of the experience. However, the respect that “Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience” by John H. Falk awards to museum cafés and gift shops made me re-consider their potential. I’ve thought before about zoo cafes and gift shops, and the divide between the zoos’ supposed mission and the food and gifts they provide. If the institution preaches about conservation, why offer so many plastic souvenirs and unsustainable food?

With museums, especially museums which don’t offer a specific social justice theme, the potential for connecting the café and shop to the museum exhibits is a little different. While most gift shop merchandise relates well to the exhibits, the cafes that I’ve frequented rarely relate to museum itself. They act more as a familiar place to recharge, with an expected décor and familiar foods. In some cultural museums, they do offer food that reflects the museum’s theme, but often without much context. While they likely exist, I’ve never been to a museum that truly appeared to take full advantage of how much there is to learn about food and eating itself.

JMM caters its gift shop to reflect its current exhibit

JMM caters its gift shop to reflect its current exhibit

I’d love for cultural museums to offer descriptions and historical context of the food offered if it relates to the museum’s theme. It’s nice for an Asian American museum to offer authentic Asian food from a variety of countries, something different from the Americanized Chinese food often found in restaurants, but when and where did the food originate? Who typically eat it? How has it changed throughout history? These facts could be found on paper tri-pods on the table, on hand-held menus, or on plaques around the café. This wouldn’t take away from the café as a resting spot, but it could add another dimension to the experience and provide optional reading for the whole family. Also, it may inspire guests to order something new!

~Anna Balfanz

Response to Building the Future of Education

In the article Building the Future of Education, a section titled “Every Child a Changemaker” discusses Ashoka’s Start Empathy initiative to bring empathy to every child, to have them better understand the world in which they live. What I found most interesting about this section was how relevant it was to our world today. From the promotion of xenophobia to the Black Live Matter movement, if there is one thing that the world needs, it is empathy.

Laura White, the author of this section asks, “How do we prepare children and young people to thrive in this world?” To which she responds with ensuring “young people are equipped with this new set of skills” referring to empathy and basically, people skills.

I especially think this is relevant to the Jewish Museum of Maryland and even more specifically to the Education and Programs department. Every few weeks or so a school group, majority from the inner city, come and learn about the Lloyd Street Synagogue, most of the students are not Jewish. It is programs and actions like these that open up a child’s understanding to the many different cultures around them. By opening a child’s mind to what is really out there it gets them out of their comfort zone and allows them to celebrate the differences that surround them.

Interactive in "The Synagogue Speaks."

Interactive in “The Synagogue Speaks.”

~Rachel Morin

Rich in Learning?

When I read the article “Glimpses of the Future of Education” by Katherine Prince, from the organization KnowledgeWorks, I was struck by how clearly and effectively she outlines two potential educational futures for America—one in which learning is personalized and capable of meeting the needs of everyone (which she calls a “vibrant learning grid”), or one in which the class divide prevents most students from achieving their full potential (aka the “fractured landscape”).  Her article is especially interesting to me because she goes on to show ways in which the current system could grow into either future, using specific examples from schools across the nation.  These examples are really cool; for instance, did you know there’s a robot that’s been specifically made to help kids by turning them into the teachers?  I was really surprised, and then excited.

But Katherine brings up a really good point about it; as cool as working with robots can be, it’s also less time that a child will get with a teacher or other live adult who can react organically and appropriately to the student, and furthermore can model behavior and social cues that are equally as important for students to learn.  And since the robots would cost less than paying actual teachers, students in low-income areas would most likely be given these robots instead of additional help from teachers, and lose out in the long-term.  But on the flip side there are also programs such as the Flexible Option at the University of Wisconsin, which allows students to demonstrate knowledge equivalent to what they would have learned in a degree program without having to take any classes in order to qualify for the degree.  In this way, students who can’t afford to take classes can still have the benefit of a college degree if they can learn the material. I think both of these examples show recent moves in education towards trying to use innovative methods to reach a diverse set of students, and that Katherine’s model of two possible futures for education is a legitimate one to use to think about the future of education.

~Gina Crosby

Room for Growth

Public education places a high value on order, eliminating mistakes and maximizing efficiency. Learning should be social yet balanced with personalization and a good diversity. This is why the first option presented in the article has so much appeal to me; it basically underscores the most important values. A system of educated built on getting people to explore and be participant in their education with interest, it gives students time to try many things. It doesn’t matter if most of these things are not interesting to them, that is a part of the process in itself. It helps students narrow down what they are interested in.

I think one of the most frustrating things I experienced from my time in public education (elementary, middle and highschool) was the urgency placed on getting students to figure out what they wanted to be while keeping them confined in classrooms for the entirety of a day five days a week for most of the year. How is someone supposed to know their future when they are stuck in one place for such a long duration of time? Fast forward to high school, there is a bit more free time and customization but it is earned, through grades and the connections made with faculty. This is disparaging to students who don’t work well with the traditional schooling to begin with. Someone who has trouble sitting still and staring at power points is marked down, this piece of paper then follows them all through their public education and beyond. In some cases this paper overshadows that person’s value as a whole and puts negative connotations and reputation on that person; friends of mine have had to endure the effects of this just by being denied their diploma preventing them from attaining many opportunities in an era where college education is considered a standard for a large swath of jobs that pay a livable wage. The point being, education confined to one place (Fractured Landscape as it is called in the article) has a limited amount it can teach someone.

Eager faces

Eager faces

It is better for institutions such as museums, parks and historical sites to have an audience of people that consistently visit. It is a mutual benefit to the people being taught and the intuitions which exist to educate and entertain the populace. Group field trips or meetings that visit various professions and environments are also incredibly valuable as they give the younger generation chances to seek interests. College visits are considered activities that students undertake with their family; why not make them social activities with other prospective college students. Standardizing education is not something that is going to achieve a well-rounded educated person, this is because experiences cannot be taught. A person can be book educated, but they cannot be taught how to interact outside of that classroom. That is something that must be attained through time, public education/museum education can do a better job of ensuring there is room for that growth.

Experiential Learning in Action

Experiential Learning in Action

~O. Cade Simon

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Learning from Wisdom

Posted on July 20th, 2016 by

Throughout this internship, I’ve spent many fond hours at the front desk talking with Betsy, one of the museum’s volunteers. Betsy is well travelled, wise, and open minded, and I love talking to her about the news and politics. Although she is an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton, and I of Bernie Sanders, our differences of opinion only make our conversations more interesting, and lead to excellent discussion. Betsy has a very different point of view from myself, which helps me to see issues in different ways than I would normally look at them, and I can’t help but to trust the wisdom of her experiences.

If you've been to the Museum, you've probably met Betsey at the Welcome Desk!

If you’ve been to the Museum, you’ve probably met Betsey at the Welcome Desk!

We’ve also conversed thoroughly about food and travel. Betsy and I have both been to China and find other cultures fascinating, and have discussed our favorite restaurants in the Baltimore. We both seem to share a passion for ethnic foods and exploring the city. Since the start of my internship, I think I have learned the most about the world and how to have a good life. She just turned 90 last week, so here’s wishing her a happy Birthday!

06.06.2016 Interns (23)Post by Education and Programs Intern David Agronin. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.


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Intern Thoughts: A Weekly Response

Posted on July 14th, 2016 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to report on their internship progress!

The Tales Documents Tell

A hundred year old Yiddish newspaper, a roster for the Maryland Regiment Company H from the Spanish-American war, photographs of numerous banquet dinners of Jewish organizations; these are some of the things that are in the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s map drawers. In addition to creating a finding aid for the archaeology collection, I have been continuing to inventory the vast collection the museum houses.

Masonic Award

Masonic Award

The map drawers house photographs, archives and pieces of artwork, which each have slightly different ways they have to be cataloged. For photographs and prints I try to make sure that the date and location it was taken is noted if available, and any identified persons are noted or a note is made of where a listing of them can be found. Many of the older photos had details hand embellished on them, and the ink and photo have faded at different rates making some weird effects. The photos also include artistic shots of different Baltimore locations from the early 20th century through today.

I find that in taking the time to read the archive documents, I learn so much more than if I were to just make note that it is easily found in the collection. Archives usually demand at least some transcription. The documents are written in multiple languages, including English, Yiddish, Hebrew, and German. Many documents are often in highly stylized calligraphy, sometimes handwritten. With handwritten documents I’ve noticed the ink tends to be more likely to be faded than with printed documents. It is also enjoyable to see the language used in old documents. Many of them tell of highly respected members of the Baltimore Jewish community. One person upon there death had at least 12 different Hadassah organizations throughout the country donate to the Jewish Welfare Fund in her name. There are some highly decorated illustrated awards and yarzheit calendars. Often times the designer’s name is written in one of the lower corners. There seemed to be few major designers of award templates that I keep seeing over and over again.



The artwork is listed into the computer catalogue as objects, even though the artworks in the map drawers are all paper based. The main difference with artwork cataloging is that dimensions are included in addition to the title of the work, artist, creation date and any other information that is included or observed in the work. I recently inventoried two paintings of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. It is neat to see the many artistic interpretations of the synagogue over time. It might be interesting to compare all the different works at some point.

~Tamara Schlossenberg

What Have We Been Up To: Season 1 Episode 2

Previously on What Have We Been Up To, Anna and Rachel were creating two versions of a brochure to aid with self-guided tours and Rachel learned the importance of community and what that means to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Three weeks have gone and the brochure is practically complete, the imagery has shifted a little, and I have picked up a lot of new Photoshop skills. Additionally, my design skills are improving with every flyer made which in benefits my Canva skills, so there has been a lot of creative growth.

In terms of education and programming, I have learned to expect the unexpected. Two weeks ago we had a school group come in, we were expecting 50students, but got 70 students. How do you accommodate that? Well you get an Ipad, line them all up and you make them dance to get some energy out. Then we split them into two groups and did our regular cycle with them (exhibits and synagogues). That experience has taught me the importance of adapting quickly and staying flexible.

(Looks more like boot camp, but I promise there was dancing!)

(Looks more like boot camp, but I promise there was dancing!)

~Rachel Morin


Office Memo is a litmag dedicated to depicting office life at the JMM as it really is, through “poetry” and “art.” It exists solely online and is released once an internship in the form of an intern blog post. In this issue the writer explores human motivations, exhibit creation, and the interplay between interns and technology through a series of project-update haikus. The stark mundanity of the photography is meant to complement the simply portrayed everyday realities of the haikus.

Books. Theories. Thoughts. Lists. (2016)

Books. Theories. Thoughts. Lists. (2016)

Books pile on the shelf:

Identity politics

How we know ourselves


Rachel is out sick

The candy bowl sits empty

Morale quickly sinks


New lists for new plans:

An exhibit that furthers

A conversation

Candy: A New Hope (2016)

Candy: A New Hope (2016)

 Who shall we study?

And what’s in the collection

That illustrates them?


Lunch with Amanda,

Director of the Flag House

Museum career?


Files pulled from the shelf

Documents from past decades

Old hands touched these things

For whom does the phone ring? It rings for MP.

For whom does the phone ring? It rings for MP.

PastPerfect is so

Very very slow for a

Computer program!!


Meeting to meeting

Ideas spark and our themes change

More lists required


A title is born

More work to be done, and lists

But new excitement

~Emilia Halvorsen

Taking Shape

The core exhibit is beginning to take shape! We have made countless changes to the central concept during my six weeks here; Emilia and I researched possible people to feature. One of the goals of this new exhibit is for it to seem like a walk through the JMM collection, meaning that we need to seek out the stories that our objects tell. This poses an interesting challenge because there are some stories that we would like to tell but don’t have the objects necessary to include it in the exhibit. In my reading, I often find great stories, only to find that our collection has nothing related to it! This early research can be frustrating, but we are slowly finding some great stuff. Just last week, I watched a 1946 film about Henrietta Szold (1993.017.042) where she gives a speech about Youth Aliyah, an organization that rescued Jewish children from the Nazis during the Third Reich. It was so powerful; I am so glad I discovered it!

After a productive concept meeting yesterday, we also narrowed down our categories for the sections of the exhibit. Each category is defined by a tension between two concepts, like unity and contention, and how they convey what it means to be Jewish in Maryland. I appreciate how this emphasizes the diversity in the Jewish community. Of course, the design for this exhibit will continue to evolve even after my internship at the JMM ends, but seeing it change during my time here so far has been fascinating!

-Alice Wynd

(Jewish) New Year, New You

One cool aspect of this internship is how one project leads into another. For one assignment a while ago, I researched how other historical places of worship brought in visitors. I found many synagogues and churches with a huge variety of events, from author series to women’s group to festivals. I compiled a long list of examples and eventually discussed it with Trillion, the programs director. We bounced around ideas based on the examples and thought about how to implement them at the museum. In one case, a few different ideas worked together to create one of my current projects. Other historical synagogues, especially active ones, hosted special events or services during the holidays. For another activity, historical churches with artifacts occasionally brought them out for a themed activity. Combining these ideas, we decided that we could bring out different artifacts in JMMs collection that relate to the upcoming holiday, Rosh Hashanah, and display them in Lloyd Street as a mini-exhibit.

Display case sneak peak

Display case sneak peak

To start working on this, I searched through the online databases to find any object that may relate to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. First, I just assembled pictures and their descriptions on a Word document. Then, to narrow it down more, I examined the display case to figure out which objects wouldn’t even fit, such as an Ark covering during the high holidays. Next, Trillion asked me to think about the most important part of cultivating an exhibit: figuring out the story you’re trying to tell. This is when I really started to learn about creating an exhibit, even a just a mini one in a display case. I thought through different ways to tie together the objects and realized that you have to be discriminating about what you chose to include and to leave out. I have ideas for themes and I’m going to discuss them with Joanna this week. Hopefully I’ll be able to move forward with this project and possibly start writing drafts for labels for the objects or finding them in the collections. What I love about this project is that I worked on it from the beginning and really get to experience all the different steps in designing a display.

~Anna Balfanz

Progress! What has the Digital Projects Intern been doing?

I’ve been doing a quite variety of things at the JMM this summer. Everything from documentation to learning how to make a website on WordPress.  It is learning by doing; a process of frustration, success and experimenting. Multi-tasking is also an important part of my job as I move from project to project as they become more relevant in priority. Things move at a certain pace in a museum of this size, projects require a larger amount of planning as they move in a broader scope of time.

Part of my job entails handling some technical work I have experience in, tasks such as taking high quality pictures of collages made outside the JMM building by Holocaust survivors.

Part of my job entails handling some technical work I have experience in, tasks such as taking high quality pictures of collages made outside the JMM building by Holocaust survivors.

It is interesting to be a part of recording history with technical knowledge. It ties into another large portion of my job which is sorting through a plethora of digitized footage, audio recordings, pictures and documents. Technology moves so fast that some of these documented materials can’t be considered documented because the media used to record them is outdated. One example is the audio recorded dialogues recorded on tapes; these tapes now need to be recorded into digital files. It is a constant battle to keep things updated and recorded while undergoing that process with new information.

It can all feel like it is in vain, but there is value in keeping these things around, I learned that working on my current project. I am currently geo-locating the museum on applications such as HistoryPin and IzI.Travel which are open for public usage, tying into social media. These old photographs are vital for comparison so progress is visible and the history can be accessed by anyone.

Geo-Locating is the process of placing important landmarks and sights in an application that users can walk up to and interact with so they can learn information about the area.

Geo-Locating is the process of placing important landmarks and sights in an application that users can walk up to and interact with so they can learn information about the area.

This has given me access to an incredible archive of historical photographs; I am happy to be a part of the process that gets these out of the basement and onto media. History is at the highest value when everyone can access it from anywhere.

That is a short summary of what I have been up to these past couple weeks, I’ve spared you from the meeting summaries and workshop details.

~ O. Cade Simon

Life of an Intern

The last few weeks at the JMM have been a fantastic learning experience for the interns. As a future educator, my favorite aspect thus far has been taking school groups on tours around our museum and exhibits.

The kids who visit the museum are bright, friendly and excited about learning. Every group has come filled with questions. As I love working with kids, it has been a great experience to teach them about the museum and the Jewish culture. The groups are smart and fun to work with.

Come and Join Us!

Come and Join Us!

In addition to assisting with tours I have been working with the other interns on several projects in the education department. The JMM is hosting an Intern Night for all interns in Baltimore to attend. The event is July 13th at 4pm, all local interns are invited!

Lastly, this week the interns took a field trip to the Library of Congress in DC. As a History Major this was particularly exciting for me. We were given a tour by the Director of Education, saw Thomas Jefferson’s personal library and even saw the first Jewish book ever printed.

The first printed Hebrew book!

The first printed Hebrew book!

Interning at the JMM has been a great Summer experience, can’t wait for the next few weeks!

~Ben Snyder

Core Exhibit Research: Dr. Louis Kaplan

Over the course of the last month, I have become familiar with one particular manuscript collection: MS 171- The Louis Kaplan Papers. I have written its location on several separation sheets, each item duplicated so that I can leave one sheet in the document’s proper box and keep one with the document to make sure it is returned to the right place. Even though I have worked with this collection, both with the documents themselves and making their location information more user friendly, I have barely skimmed the surface. This collection is 17 boxes of content and contains material spanning from the 1920s to the 1990s. The Kaplan collection in the downstairs archive is not the only place to find information on Dr. Kaplan. The vertical biographical files housed in the library are a treasure trove of specific information on influential community members, particularly media outlets like relevant newspaper records.

Dr. Louis Kaplan was a prominent Rebbe in Baltimore during his lifetime. He was president of Baltimore Hebrew College and a spiritual leader for several Baltimore congregations but the end of his life was focused on Beth Am Synagogue on Eutaw Street. Kaplan had a unique philosophy of staying unaligned with any particular movement so that he could choose what he felt were the best practices from all of them. This philosophy shaped the creation of Beth Am Congregation in the mid-1970s. He was beloved by many and one folder in MS 171 is aptly titled “Fan Letters.” Dr. Kaplan passed away in 2001, but his words and the words of those who knew him are preserved here at the museum.

The Louis Kaplan Papers “Fan Letters”1994.205.437

The Louis Kaplan Papers “Fan Letters”1994.205.437

~Rebecca Miller


A Visit to the Library of Congress

With all the troubling happenings in the news, and the well known political squabbling at Capital Hill, visiting Washington, D.C. can be at once exhilarating and infuriating. It is the center of political power in the world, and yet feels like it could also be the center of political disfunction. Visiting the Library of Congress, however, can only be described as enlightening, and beckons back to the ideals that began this country.

Outside Jefferson's collection.

Outside Jefferson’s collection.

What started with a personal library donated by U.S. President, Ambassador, and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson’s personal library has now come into fruition as a striking monument to knowledge and education, accessible to every citizen, and housed in a building that rivals Versailles in its beauty. I was truly taken aback by building’s design. It is honestly one of the most beautiful places I have been, and all dedicated to learning. Although I’m usually at least somewhat frustrated with the way the government spends the tax dollars of the American people, I think there is nothing so pure, wholesome, and universally good that they could be spent on than such a place. I look forward to visiting again.

~David Agronin

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