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Something old and something new: Adventures in shop inventory!

Posted on July 4th, 2019 by

A blog post by JMM Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. For more posts from Jessica, click HERE.


The annual shop inventory at Esther’s Place is a daunting task. Though we’re a relatively small operation, our stock is extensive. We’ve got books, toys, games, souvenirs, homewares, art, jewelry, and Judaica in every size, style, and price point—so the individual inventory items are quite numerous.

It’s a big job. But it’s also fun and edifying, and the best possible chance for busy staff and volunteers to slow down and get to know the inventory in a deeper way.

We conducted our inventory count over June 12 and June 13 with the invaluable assistance of five wonderful summer interns and two brave and seasoned Shop volunteers. And since we counted more efficiently this year (thanks Google Sheets!), we had a little energy left at the end to share some of our discoveries and new inspirations for the coming fiscal year.

My favorite discovery, buried deep inside the box of custom JMM postcards, was a postcard I’d never seen featuring a photograph of 1963 East Lombard Street by John McGrain. Up to that point, I had been unaware we had a postcard showcasing our beloved historic Lombard Street (the subject of permanent exhibit Voices of Lombard Street), and naturally the newly discovered postcard now occupies a prime spot at the counter!

While counting and searching inventory items on the inventory worksheet, some of the more descriptive and whimsical inventory names caught our eyes and made us smile. Featured below from left to right are the “spider bullet” mezuzah, swiss cheese mezuzah, chimes mezuzah, and waterfall Kiddush cup and candle holders.

A new term, “jacquard,” also caught my attention during the count and led me to a deeper appreciation of some of our artisan items. The Shop features two “jacquard specks” scarves and a hamsa hanging described as “royal jacquard.” Jacquard, I learned, is a complex, raised weave made on a special loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard. Florals, such as the image depicted on our Royal Jacquard Hamsa, are popular jacquard designs. Learn more about textile arts on July 14 during a hands-on workshop with shop-featured silk painting artist Diane Tuckman. More details on the workshop here.

The count also got us quite excited about some of our new merchandise, including car mezuzahs (a returning favorite), and shofar necklaces (a brand-new inventory item).

The yearly inventory also serves as a great reminder of interesting and handy products that haven’t been featured recently, or that our customers might not always remember we have.

Two examples are our gift enclosure cards (only $0.75 or $0.95 each and the perfect accompaniment to your gift purchase) and some of our older local history reads by valued community members, including A Life Worth Living by Ralph A. Brunn and Uncommon Threads by Philip Kahn, Jr.

Thank you to all JMM team members who gave their energy and attention to our inventory count. Visitors, stop by Esther’s Place to welcome in the new fiscal year and discover inventory items old, new, and newly “re-discovered”!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Inventory and the Crystal Chandelier: A Journey Into Deep Intellectual Thought

Posted on June 18th, 2015 by

The Good Soldier and myself in Przemysl, Poland.

The Good Soldier and myself in Przemysl, Poland.

After spending six weeks abroad in the beautiful country of Poland during my senior year of college, I have embarked on a professional and academic journey into Holocaust studies. While it is clearly not a cheerful topic, it is one that I find to be challenging and interesting. My graduate school experience at the George Washington University, where I am a MA Museum Studies student, has included an internship with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Sociology of the Holocaust and Genocide course, and two Holocaust related classes planned for my final year. I am thankful for my internship with JMM, because through all of the horrors and devastations of the Holocaust which I have studied, this museum is a reminder of the vibrant Jewish culture which managed to survive and thrive after the Holocaust.

One of my primary projects over this summer is to perform the scheduled inventory of the JMM permanent collection. While going through a drawer, I came across two items, a crystal facet and crystal pendant, accompanied by an incredible provenance. Once again, the Holocaust became a focus point for my work.

Crystal Chandelier Facet. JMM 1986.072.032

Crystal Chandelier Facet. JMM 1986.072.032

Crystal Chandelier Pendant. JMM 1986.072.033

Crystal Chandelier Pendant. JMM 1986.072.033

In December of 1938, just a month after Krystallnacht (the systematic burning of Germany’s synagogues by the Nazis) Richard Zurndorfer escaped Germany and traveled to Baltimore, MD. He managed to bring several items with him, including these crystal pieces, belonging to a chandelier from a synagogue in Mhringen, Germany, which was destroyed during Kystallnacht. A census list of European Jews and a Torah were also brought over. JMM is now home to these items.

The story of Mr. Zurnforfer made me think about how important artifacts are. While museums are always evolving to remain relevant to the public, it is crucial to remember the value of artifacts. This collection meant a great deal to Mr. Zurnforfer, who was described as “A man with respect for old traditions, he sticks like printer’s ink to his family artifacts – largely because they are the artifacts of his family,” by reporter Isaac Rehert of The Sun on January 17, 1978. In regards to the objects, Rehert says, “They tell the story of a thriving Jewish community acknowledged and valued by its sovereign, with roots deep down in Germany’s culture, with hardly a hint of the tragedy that was to overtake it.”

Whether coming across these items was strictly a coincidence, or an act of fate, I am again reminded about why I have chosen to work in museum collections. Artifacts facilitate relationships and lead to connections. In this case, the Holocaust becomes more than a Nazi, Jewish, or European issue. It becomes a Maryland, Baltimore, and JMM intern issue. I hope to have more intense thought provoking experiences like this one while I continue to inventory the collection!

IMG_0985A blog post by Collections Intern Kaleigh Ratliff. To read more posts from interns click HERE.

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Inventory, Inventory, Inventory (or…where is all that stuff??)

Posted on July 10th, 2012 by

A blog post by Photo Archives Intern Matt Oliva.

The process for photograph inventory is simple; sit down in a small basement room in front of a computer and grab a large box of photos. Inside that box will be several archival folders. Inside those folders reside dozens, if not hundreds of photographs. Locate the object number on the back of the image; type it into the computer and go. Then repeat this process for several hours a day, five days a week. If this doesn’t sound like the best job ever to you too, you’re probably crazy.  The JMM’s photograph collection is vast and full of really interesting pictures, from Victorian cabinet cards to portraits of children:

1992.242.006.037b and 1992.242.005.031a

Even though the boxes and folders are labeled, the actually content of the images is usually a complete surprise. In one box you might find an incredible turn of the century studio portrait:

1991.065.003

And in the next, snapshots of women showing off the best of 1980’s fashion.

2000.135.035 and 2000.135.049

While I’ve been perfectly happy working with pieces of paper for the last five weeks, for the past two days all of the archive interns have been thrown into the world of three dimensions through object inventory. Where working with the photograph collection is basically a desk job with a lot of minute tasks, object inventory is the opposite. Object inventory is carrying a very valuable looking cut glass jar down a maybe four foot wide aisle while attempting not to run into the two other interns walking towards you with objects and simultaneously avoid the large box that appeared in the middle of the floor while your back was turned. Object inventory isn’t pulling photographs out of a folder individually; it’s clearing an entire shelf of extremely breakable objects one at a time to get to a single tiny paperweight that somehow ended up at the very back. It’s cringing whenever you hear a clink or bang from anywhere in the room.

2000.178.001

Working with objects is really a great change of pace from my entirely photograph-based existence. There’s something incredibly interesting about actual but unusual household objects; the Cyrillic typewriter, the ornate art deco trophies, or the entire shelf of porcelain spittoons. Until these past few days I had never really considered working with anything but photographs or documents, as photography was my first love and what brought me to the museum field. I’m really excited to see what other items I find in the next few weeks, and experience different parts of the museum world.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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