Invaluable Archives

Posted on November 20th, 2013 by

Since my last update, I have learned so much more about Baltimore Jewish history by processing a wide variety of collections. Entering the library closed stacks, I am never quite sure what lies in store for me within the mysterious archival boxes. In the case of the library closed stacks, no two collections are alike!

Over the past month, I accessioned photographs, cookbooks, invoices, holiday cards, invitations, financial documents, and all manner of fascinating manuscript materials for the archives. I strongly encourage anyone interested in Baltimore history to conduct research in our archives. I recently processed original documents pertaining to the career of Lun (Licien) Harris, a fashion illustrator who was an active preservationist and founding member of Baltimore Heritage. Lun Harris was appointed to the Baltimore City Planning Commission and voted against interstate highways through Baltimore. This month, I accessioned several of Harris’ photographs as well as original diplomas and awards for the JMM archives.

Here is a photograph of Lun Harris in a three-way mirror. The scan is available in the JMM’s digital records, but we also have the original in our extensive photograph collection.

2008.95.1

2008.95.1

Beyond  Lun Harris’ photographs, we also have various documents pertaining to this remarkable woman’s lifetime achievements courtesy of Linda Lapides. For example, here we have Harris’ gorgeous certificate commemorating her service with the Baltimore City Planning Commission:

 2008.95.12

2008.95.12

Although this scan is available for research most of the JMM’s twenty thousand catalog records are not digitized. Anyone interested in Baltimore history would benefit from the materials available in our archival collections. As much as I enjoy digitizing new accession materials,  I am amazed by the sheer volume of physical manuscripts, books, paintings, maps, blueprints, and other original documents in the archives. As a history student at UMBC, I am pleased that such a wealth of local history is readily available.

Another compelling collection from this past month, donated by Morton Esterson, includes more recent records. JMM archives include not only faded original manuscripts but also recent records of Jewish life in Baltimore.  These resources, preserved in the permanent collection, will be readily available for future generations. My interest in these recent documents in particular sprang from my personal contact with the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Holocaust Speakers Bureau as a UMBC Jewish student leader. While I was directly in touch with the Holocaust Speakers Bureau, I added original documents about their resources to the JMM archives. This coincidence speaks to the continuing relevance of the archives for Jewish life in Baltimore. The archives include resources with enduring meaning beyond the realm of academia. Other “modern” documents I added in the past few weeks include Rosh Hashana greeting cards – yet another surprising find in the library closed stacks! Although some of the collections I processed are more mundane than others, just by sheer exposure to this variety of documents I have learned so much about Jewish life in Baltimore. Once again, I look forward to the next collection!

After my last blog post, my classmates at UMBC pleasantly surprised me by mentioning that they follow the Jewish Museum of Maryland on social media. Please continue following the JMM on Twitter and Facebook!

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Intern JenA blog post by Collections Intern Jen Wachtel. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.

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Finding a Home in the Collections

Posted on October 30th, 2013 by

Within the first five minutes of my internship at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I found myself in the midst of an intimidating board meeting. Over the course of the next two months, I realized that I had joined a dynamic staff and a group of enthusiastic Collections interns. So far, I have worked with a wide range of collections including photographs, oral histories, scrapbooks, rare books, invitations, and Bar Mitzvah cards. The most exciting evening of my internship was the day Jobi Zink entrusted me with the condition reports for two swords and a rifle for the Passages through Fire: Jews and the Civil War exhibit. You can find photographic evidence of my excitement at handling these objects on the JMM Facebook album or by clicking these links: Civil War Sword and Full Sword and Scabbard.

While most of the other collections are not as thrilling as swords and rifles, I gained valuable insight about Jewish culture in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland by processing multimedia collections. As an out-of-state undergraduate at UMBC, learning about Jewish life in all aspects of Baltimore’s history has helped me feel at home. I particularly enjoyed processing an affectionate oral testimony about Camps Louise and Airy. Growing up, I never attended Jewish summer camps, so I was intrigued to learn about this important aspect in the history of Baltimore’s Jewish youth. This record is now available in the JMM’s digital collections (Oral History #170).

Most of my work is in the form of paper documents – ranging from Hebrew diplomas, High Holy Day Cards and Bar Mitzvah invitations to family photos and newspaper clippings from Jewish businesses. I am especially intrigued by the sheer extent of the collections donors such as Linda Lapides saw fit to donate to the JMM collections. Within her file, I found a vibrant story of Jewish life evolving and changing within the city of Baltimore. Perusing her donations helped me realize that Jewish life extended far beyond the walls of the synagogue in Baltimore City.  My favorite piece of the collection was a German-language book representing the early Zionist movement, encouraging Jewish people to migrate to what was then British Palestine (Palästina). This was an exciting opportunity to practice my German language skills! In the next file, I stumbled upon two scrapbooks and a large collection of photographs detailing the development of the family-owned Greenberg’s Jewelers – yet another reminder of Jewish life outside of the synagogue. I can’t wait to find out what else lies in store for me to process in the library closed stacks!

Intern JenA blog post by Collections Intern Jen Wachtel. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland