MS 43 and MS 163 Temple Oheb Shalom

Posted on December 13th, 2012 by

Once before I posted two related collections together and here I'm going to do it again. ?We have two manuscript collections related to Oheb Shalom congregation. ?Here's a little of its history, our holdings, and some pictures, too.

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Oheb Shalom on Hanover Street after the rebuilding, n.d. 1985.114.1

Temple Oheb Shalom (Baltimore, Md.)

Collection, n.d., 1819-1977

MS 163

?The Jewish Museum of Maryland

ACCESS AND PROVENANCE??

The Temple Oheb Shalom Collection was donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by Temple Oheb Shalom in 2004 as accession 2004.97.? The collection had previously been on the premises as loans L1988.11 and L2002.48.? The collection was arranged by Bernie Raynor and Jerry Frankle in 2006 and the finding aid was written by Erin Titter.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.? Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.? Papers may be copied in accordance with the library?s usual procedures.

(left) Cantor Alois Kaiser and (right) Rabbi Benjamin Szold, taken at the Oheb Shalom Synagogue in 1868. 1989.79.74

HISTORICAL NOTE

Temple Oheb Shalom was founded in 1853 and held its first services on November 25, 1853 in Osceola Hall at the northeast corner of Gay and Lexington Streets inBaltimore.? In 1858, the congregation purchased the old Fifth Presbyterian Church onSouth Hanover Streetbetween Pratt and Lombard Streets, remodeled the building, and dedicated it as the new synagogue on August 13, 1858.? In these early years of its existence, the congregation was called the Fourth Synagogue, the Hanover Street Synagogue, or the German Congregation.

Salomon Landsberg served as the congregation?s spiritual leader from 1856-1857, but he was not an ordained rabbi.? In 1859, Benjamin Szold became the first ordained rabbi of the congregation and he served in that capacity until 1892.? In 1870, the Hanover Street building underwent reconstruction, during which time the congregation worshipped at the New Assembly Rooms at Lombard and Hanover Streets.

On September 3, 1892, Rabbi William Rosenau preached his first sermon as the new leader of Temple Oheb Shalom.? In June of 1892 a cornerstone was laid for a new temple at the corner of Eutaw PlaceandLanvale Street, which was known as the Eutaw Place Temple.? Designed by architect Joseph Evans Sperry, the temple was formally dedicated on September 8, 1893.? A Temple Center adjacent to the Eutaw Place Temple opened in February 1923.

Rabbi Szold died while on vacation in Berkeley Springs, West Virginiain 1903 and later that year, the congregation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the congregation and the 40th anniversary of Rev. Alois Kaiser?s service as cantor was celebrated in 1906.? A new cantor, Rev. Jacob Schuman was installed in September 1908.

In 1959, ground was broken for a new Templeon Park Heights Avenueon the former estate of Moses S. and Samuel M. Hecht.? The new Temple was dedicated on September 16, 1960 after eight weeks of farewell ceremonies for the Eutaw Place Temple.? The Eutaw Place Temple was sold to the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.

Rabbi Abraham D. Shaw became an assistant rabbi for the congregation in 1936, and was promoted to Senior Rabbi in 1940.? He served until 1976 when Rabbi Donald Berlin became rabbi.? He served as senior rabbi until 1999.? Rabbi Daniel Feder became the assistant rabbi in 1994 and in 1999, Rabbi Steven M. Fink succeeded Rabbi Berlinas Senior Rabbi and Rabbi Feder left to become rabbi at Congregation Keneseth Israel in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Rabbi Eric B. Stark became the new assistant rabbi.

Temple Oheb Shalom is an active congregation and is still located on Park Heights Avenue.? For more information about the congregation, please see Synagogues, Temples and Congregations of Maryland, 1830-1990 by Earl Pruce as well as his addendum covering the years 1991-2002.

Eutaw Place looking south toward Oheb Shalom, n.d. Courtesy of Dennis B. Myers. 1985.112.1

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The Temple Oheb Shalom Collection contains the records of the Templeas well as the papers of clergy and other members of the congregation.? Records include financial ledgers, marriage certificates, information about several buildings owned and used by the congregation, membership information, board of trustees minutes, the religious school, the Brotherhood and other congregational groups, evidence of interactions with outside organizations, and issues of Temple Topics, the congregations newsletter.

The Collection is divided into the following twenty series:? Series I.? Anniversaries, 1903-1978 ; Series II.? Annual Meetings, 1853-1970 ; Series III.? Board of Trustees, 1867-1971 ; Series IV.? Books, n.d., 1826-1883 ; Series V.? Buildings, n.d., 1890-1974 ; Series VI.? Cemetery, n.d., 1863-1934 ; Series VII.? Clergy, n.d., 1859-1977 ; Series VIII.? Correspondence, n.d., 1870-1971 ; Series IX.? Financial, 1853, 1893-1927, 1960-1961; Series X.? Groups, n.d, 1873-1995 ; Series XI.? History, n.d., 1819, 1895-1974 ; Series XII.? Insurance Appraisals, 1940-1944 ; Series XIII.? Marriages, n.d., 1859-1944 ; Series XIV.? Membership, n.d., 1790-1975 ; Series XV.? Memorials, n.d., 1862-1957 ; Series XVI.? Outside Organizations, n.d., 1871-1973 ; Series XVII.? Religious School, n.d., 1873-1981 ; Series XVIII.? Religious Services, n.d., 1910-1972 ; Series XIX.? Temple Topics, 1928-1966, 1978 ; and Series XX.? Photographs.

Series I.? Anniversaries, 1903-1978 contains programs, scrapbooks, and correspondence related to the 50th, 60th, 75th, 83rd, 85th, 90th, 100th, 116th, 120th and 125th anniversaries of the congregation.? Materials are organized chronologically beginning with the earliest material.

Series II.? Annual Meetings, 1853-1970 contains minutes from early annual meetings, the reports of the congregation?s president, a testimonial to Rabbi Rosenau given during the 1937 annual meeting, and programs and invitations to several meetings.? Materials are organized alphabetically by folder title.

Series III.? Board of Trustees, 1853-1971 contains minutes from board of trustees meetings from 1853-1960, an agenda from a 1971 meeting, a manual for board members, and an undated meeting report.? Series is organized alphabetically by folder title.

Series IV.? Books, n.d., 1826-1883 contains several boxes of prayer books and religious texts, in German and English, including a Sunday School text book compiled by Rabbi Szold in 1873 and the complete, translated works of Flavius Josephus give to the temple in honor of the 85th birthday of Beulah Gutman.? Books are in boxes according to size and are not organized in any specific manner.

Series V.? Buildings, n.d., 1890-1974 contains information about the two buildings used by the congregation:?Eutaw Place Temple and theParkHeightsTemple.? Materials about theEutaw Place temple include several newspaper accounts of the opening of the temple in 1893 from various newspapers, etchings, information about the laying of the cornerstone, rededication programs, documents of sale of the Eutaw Place andLanvale Street properties, and a set of mounted postcards depicting various rooms of the temple.? The materials about the Park Heights Temple include blueprints of the property, construction plans, dedication materials, information about the laying of the cornerstone, and a lawsuit filed against the congregation by the Club Manor apartment building.? Folders are organized alphabetically by folder title.

Snapshot by Menasha Katz of Oheb Shalom at the corner of Eutaw Place and Lanvale. 1987.137.35

Series VI.? Cemetery, n.d., 1863-1934 contains cemetery committee meeting minutes, correspondence and perpetual care certificates, and ledgers with lot information and payments.? The series is organized alphabetically by folder title.

Series VII.? Clergy, n.d., 1859-1977 contains materials about rabbis and cantors who served at Temple Oheb Shalom.? Included are materials by and about Rabbi Rosenau, Rabbi Shaw, and Rabbi Szold as well as Cantor Alois Kaiser.? Folders are organized alphabetically by last name of the clergymen.

Series VIII.? Correspondence, n.d., 1870-1971 contains correspondence organized chronologically.? General, undated correspondence appears first followed in order from the earliest to most recent correspondence.

Series IX.? Financial, 1853, 1893-1927, 1960-1961 contains a 1909 budget, General Fund balance sheets from 1960-1961, receipts from 1901-1903, a copy of an 1893 loan, and reports from the finance committee.? Folders are organized alphabetically by folder title.

Series X.? Groups, n.d., 1873-1995 contains information about the temple brotherhood and sisterhood, the choir committee, long range planning committee, the divine services committee, and the cantors committee among others.? Of particular interest in the choir committee correspondence is evidence of an argument between the choir and the board regarding the choir leadership and in the divine services committee folder is an 1893 appeal to members to refrain from talking during services.? The folders are organized alphabetically by the name of the group involved.

Series XI.? History, n.d., 1819, 1895-1974 contains the articles of incorporation and by-laws as rewritten in 1905 and 1929, speeches and essays about the role of Oheb Shalom during the Civil War and German immigration in the 19th century, congregational histories, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, and a copy of the Jew Bill debates, 1819.? Folders are organized alphabetically by folder title.

Series XII.? Insurance Appraisals, 1940-1944 contains three appraisals of the Temple buildings.? The 1940 appraisals also contains photographs of the buildings.? Folders are organized chronologically from earliest to latest.

Series XIII.? Marriages, n.d., 1859-1944 contains marriage certificates, a ketubah from the wedding of Sarah Stein and Solomon Hecht, marriage licenses from 1859-1944, a compiled list of marriages performed, and ledgers containing lists of marriages performed by Rabbis Rosenau, Shaw and Szold.? Of particular interest is a folder of wedding invitations collected by the congregation.? The invitations are undated (likely from the late 19th and early 20th centuries), but do contain names of individuals being married as well as their family members.? Folders are organized alphabetically by folder title.? Folders of marriage licenses are organized chronologically, with the earliest licenses appearing first.

Series XIV.? Membership, n.d., 1790-1975 contains information about becoming a member of the congregation and membership lists, but primarily contains information about various members of the congregation.? Included is information about the Blaustein family, the Brunn family, Jonas Friedenwald, Yale Gordon, Adolph Gutman, Sophie Hechinger, Bennard Perlman, Gilbert Sandler, Henry Sonneborn, Isaac Straus, Bertha, Henrietta, Johanna, Sara, and Sophie Szold, and the Van Leer family.? Folders are organized alphabetically by folder title.? Folders about individual members or families are organized under the heading Members, and are alphabetical by last name.

Series XV.? Memorials, n.d., 1862-1957 contains memorial offering booklets, memorial books, a blank resolution form to be filled in by the board upon the death of a member, and a list of funerals officiated by Rabbi Rosenau.? Folders are organized alphabetically by folder title.

Series XVI.? Outside Organizations, n.d., 1871-1973 contains material about other local and national organizations.? Included is information about other congregations such as Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, and Har Sinai, the Jewish Community Center, the National Association of Temple Administrators, the Jewish Congregations of Baltimore, the Council of Jewish Women,HebrewUnionCollege, the Hebrew Ladies? Sewing Society, and the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.? Included in this series of note are the handwritten articles of incorporation of the Hebrew Free Burial Society and an 1871 letter asking for all ?Israelites? to meet at Temple Oheb Shalom to discuss the formation of an Orphan Asylum inBaltimore.? Folders are organized alphabetically by the name of the organization.

Confirmation class at Oheb Shalom. Hattie Tannebaum, is seated at right of Rabbi William Rosenau, 1900. Courtesy of Morton T. Blumberg. 1991.48.1

Series XVII.? Religious School, n.d., 1873-1981 contains a record of bar mitzvahs, correspondence, class rosters including the 1891-92 class taught by Henrietta Szold, a catalog of library books at the religious school library, a copy of the 1915 school newspaper, a list of honor roll students, reports to the board of school commissioners, board of commissioners meeting minutes, and invitations and programs to confirmation exercises.? Folders are organized alphabetically by folder title.

Series XVIII.? Religious Services, n.d., 1910-1972 contains bulletins from services, calendars of events, a photocopy of an 1858 article in the Occident protesting the installation of an organ for use during services at theTemple, and a bulletin for a prayer service for peace in 1969 as part of a national anti-war campaign.? Series is organized alphabetically by folder title.

Series XIX.? Temple Topics, 1928-1966, 1978 contains issues of the congregational newsletter Temple Topics.? Issues are organized chronologically beginning with the earliest issues.? It is a complete accounting of issues from 1928-1966 and the year 1978.

Series XX.? Photos contains photographs collected by the congregation.? Photographs will be individually cataloged in the JMM database.

Oheb Shalom Congregation

Collection, n.d., 1865-1986

MS 43

??The Jewish Museum of Maryland

Polaroid of the exterior of Oheb Shalom, c. 1980. Photograph by Paul Schlossberg. 1984.24.40

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ACCESS AND PROVENANCE

The Oheb Shalom Congregation Collection was donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 1984, 1989, 1990, and 1991 as accessions 1984.125, 1989.20, 1989.45, 1990.89, 1990.191, 1991.35, by Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Trupp, Mrs. Stanley Greenebaum, Calman A Levin, Rose Weiss, Janice K. Friedman and in 1988, 1991 and 1992 as accession 1988.216, 1991.118 and 1992.51 found in the collection of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The collection was processed at an unknown date and a finding aid was written by Sidney Rankin in 2012.

Temple Oheb Shalom Sunday School class, May 19, 1931. Partial list of people in photograph, although none are positively identified: Albert Lowenson, Ros Michaelson, Irving Oberfelder, Dorothy Stephany Otenheimer, Alice Leitz, Joseph Wiesenfeld; Francis Scott Key Monument in background. Courtesy of Joseph Wiesenfeld. 1999.57.1

SCOPE AND CONTENT

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The Oheb Shalom Congregation Collection consists of a small collection of documents primarily related to the early history of the congregation. The collection is divided into two series.? Series I: Early History, 1899-1938 contains articles of incorporation, early correspondence and histories of the congregation.? Series II: Congregation activities, 1865-1986 contains programs, class materials, letters, pew deeds, prayer cards, etc. related to confirmation, the sisterhood, Benjamin Szold, etc.

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MS 206 The Felix Kestenberg Collection

Posted on October 5th, 2012 by

The Felix Kestenberg (1921-2008)

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Collection

n.d., 1987-2008

 MS 206

 Jewish Museum of Maryland

ACCESS AND PROVENANCE

The Felix Kestenberg collection was donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by Veronica Kestenberg in 2010 as accession 2010.69. The collection was processed by Jennifer Vess in 2012.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Researchers must obtain written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual practices

Hebrew Free Loan Association - October 1989. Felix Kestenberg kneels third from the left in the front row. 2010.69.6

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Felix Kestenberg was born in 1921 in Radom, Poland, the son of a shoe manufacturer.  In 1939 he was sent to a labor camp on the border of Russia and was moved to seven other camps including Auschwitz and Maidanek.  In January 1945, he was marched to Dachau. The camp was liberated on April 29, 1945 by American troops.  He was the only member of his family to survive.

Kestenberg moved to Baltimore in 1949 to live with his uncle Leo Altfeder.  Kestenberg’s first jobs included TV repairman and roofer. He eventually joined his uncle’s clothing business and later worked for London Fog and Misty Harbor Outerwear.

Kestenberg was active in the Jewish community serving in various positions for the Hebrew Free Loan Society, the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society and Jewish Family Services.  Under the Jewish Family Services he served as the chair for the Holocaust Claims Conference Committee.  Kestenberg traveled around Maryland telling his story at schools, churches and synagogues.  He was a founding member and long-time supporter of Beth Israel Congregation.

His first wife, Doris Potler, died 1968 and he later married Veronica Salazar.  He had three children, David Homoki, Leah Miller and Edith Creeger.  Kesternberg died in Baltimore on July 22, 2008.

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The Felix Kestenberg Collection contains photographs, certificates, programs, articles, letters, and DVDs predominantly related to Kestenberg’s work with Holocaust remembrance.  The materials reference Kesternberg’s talks given to students, participation in yearly Holocaust remembrance events aroundMaryland, and awards for his accomplishments.  The papers are organized with all articles first followed by certificates then materials such as programs and letters related to his talks on the Holocaust.  Each grouping of materials is organized chronologically.  The DVDs and photographs are stored separately.

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Spotlight on the Archives

Posted on July 24th, 2012 by

Executive Director Marvin Pinkert asked Jennifer Vess (archivist) and myself (photo archivist) to prepare short articles highlighting the paper and photographic archives here at the Museum. I think they turned out rather well and decided to share them here with you on the blog! Hope you enjoy.

~RK

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OUR LIVES PRESERVED

By Jennifer Vess, Archivist

Our archives serve as the repository for Jewish Maryland.   What is special about our archives is that in addition to preserving the papers of large organizations like Baltimore Hebrew University and local leaders and international figures such as Henrietta Szold, our collections also help tell the story of less well-known individuals – those who ran department store chains and those that worked in sweatshops, those who owned their own little store and those who took the trolley to their office then back home to the suburbs. Is your family important enough to end up in our museum’s collection? The answer is yes!

Putting the Records to Work

Why do our archival collections matter?  People use them.  Our archives are open to outside researchers.  Most come to do genealogical research – to find information about their families.  We also have college and graduate students visit the JMM to conduct research in our archives for papers and dissertations on topics such as cookbooks, department store employees, desegregation of public parks, and Family Circles.  Our archives also provide assistance for authors and historians who are looking for more information for their books or for photographs to illustrate their books.

But perhaps the most frequent users of our archives are our staff.  Every exhibition we develop requires time spent researching our archives for documents that support exhibition themes.  The education department also makes use of our archival collections when developing school programs. Furthermore, our archives are also consulted when researching articles for Generations and when we pull information for programs.

Keeping Track and Keeping Safe 

The biggest task for 2012 is to complete the archives inventory.  Inventory of the collections takes place every three years and 2009 was the first time that we did a complete inventory of all of the archives.  It took the better part of a year to accomplish and it was a major accomplishment.  At the time we had well over 18,000 archival records and 1028 linear feet of material.  This year we have added a new dimension to archival inventory – our volunteers, interns and staff are writing brief descriptions about the condition of each individual document. While this is extremely time consuming, this is an important step that will help us determine if special care or conservation is needed.  To date we have completed inventory of 46% of the archives.

Other tasks involved in maintaining our archives are ongoing, mainly processing the collections – getting them into a state that will protect them and make them available to researchers.  At the beginning of this year we reached a big milestone – our 200th manuscript collection.  We are already up to 210.

Community Participation 

At the JMM, we are dependent upon a team of staff, volunteers, and interns to assist with archival processing. As the JMM archivist, I am responsible for all of our paper collections, which means whether we receive a donation of two books or 161 boxes, it is my duty to preserve the collection and prepare it for researchers.  It would be impossible for one person to do all this work which is why we are so appreciative of the assistance of our volunteers and interns.

Bernie Raynor, Allan Blumberg and Sidney Rankin are our front line volunteers for archival processing. They work on one box of materials at a time, making sure that all documents are appropriately placed into new archival folders and boxes, copying labels and making sure that everything stays organized.  They also remove staples…lots and lots of staples. Why? Because staples rust and damage the documents.

We also rely on volunteers who serve as typists.  If you want to find anything in the archives you need a document that tells you what is in each box, which means someone has to type up a list of folder titles.  Volunteers who help with this aspect of archival processing are: Sidney Rankin, Betsey Kahn and Bobbie Horwitz.  Bobbie is currently hard at work typing up the information found within the record books of midwife Rosa Fineberg – names of children, dates of birth, names and origins of parents and their occupations.  These books are goldmines for genealogists.  They are also a big project.  Rosa delivered approximately 2,000 babies during her career!

Because we have documents that are written in other languages, we are dependent on the translation services of Irv Weintraub and Rose Cohen. Other valuable archival volunteers are Krana Dworkin who writes new finding aids (MS 207 the Hebrew Young Men’s Sick Relief Association Papers so far) and Robert Battista who is assisting with inventory.

If you have skills you would like to contribute contact Ilene Cohen (icohen@jewishmuseummd.org).

Learning by Doing

Our volunteers contribute to nearly every activity that occurs in the archives, as do our interns. Every summer and often in the fall and spring, we are fortunate to have the services of hard working archival interns.  Our interns learn how to process archival collections, write finding aids, digitize documents or photographs, inventory collections, and handle many other tasks.  We have had many interns over the years.  Currently we have two: Leslie McNamara who is working on the Baltimore Hebrew University collections and David Broadway who is working on writing finding aids for several collections.  And occasionally we have an intern who has so much fun that he or she comes back to work for us as a volunteer. This is the case of Rebecca Louderback who interned with us last spring and is back this summer as a volunteer.

A Few Highlights of the Archives 

Our oral history collection includes 775 interviews and this number is constantly increasing. In OHV 11, a video oral history, Rabbi Manuel Poliakoff talks about his experiences as a Chaplain in World War II.

Three collections of materials related to Rabbi Benjamin Szold, his wife Sophie, his five daughters, and his grandchildren.  The collections cover topics ranging from Reform Judaism to education to Zionism to literary figures.

1989.079.001

The Hendler’s Ice Cream collection including schematics for machines, family photographs, and images of the ice cream plant in action.

1997.016.011

Scrapbooks are some of the most amazing and challenging items in the collection.  We have two identical mass-produced scrapbooks called “School Days” in our collections.  At least they look identical on the outside.  The content contained within the scrapbooks is personalized.

2009.058.006

1989.167.004a

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WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

By Rachel Kassman, Photo Archivist

In addition to the manuscripts and papers, the Jewish Museum of Maryland is very proud of its exceptional visual record of the community.  Over the last five years (my tenure here at the Museum) the photo archives have come a long way. We completed the first full inventory of the cataloged print collection in 2008 – this means we physically looked at every single, cataloged photograph printed on paper to make sure they were all where they were supposed to be. A daunting job when (at the time) the catalog had over 30,000 photograph records. Now we’re nearing 45,000 catalog records and have begun the second inventory. While these records include digital photographs, institutional archive images, and some miscellaneous pieces like negatives and slides, the print collection still spans over 40 shelves. We’ve got our work cut out for us!

The Images We Remember 

1963.002.001 Sonneborn workers whose discharge precipitated a 16 week strike at the plant lasting from September 10 to December 23, 1914. Gift of Jacob Edelman. This is one of the first photos to be donated to the Museum.

When the Museum decides to tell a story (and isn’t that really what we’re all about, stories?) one of the first questions we always ask is: do we have a picture? Whether an exhibition like Voices of Lombard Street, a book like Glimpses of Jewish Baltimore, or a program like Making Ice Cream Social, our photo archives allow us to explore, expand and enhance our projects.  As the photo archivist it’s my job to take care of this part of the collection – to properly organize, house and catalog each individual photo (both print and digital!) so that the photographs stay in the best condition possible and are as accessible as possible. Cataloging each photograph individually makes it easier for researchers, staff and any other interested parties to find them. As one of the most heavily used portions of the JMM collections, taking care of our photographs is a pretty big job!

What’s in Our Scrapbook

2009.040.413 Baltimore Hebrew University commencement exercises, 1996. Gift of BHU.

The photo archive here at the JMM covers the gamut – we have baby photos from the 1850s to the 1950s, photos of buildings old and new (and sometimes no longer standing), photos of religious life, and photos of backyard barbeques. If it happened in Maryland and involved Jews we want a picture of it and our collections reflect that. Often it is easy to convince potential photograph donors that the lives of their parents and their grandparents are important but it can be a challenge to convince them that their own lives, and their children, and their children’s children are equally so! This has meant that our photographs skew to earlier dates and cover certain periods of time fairly well, such as the 1930s and 1940s. Recent projects have seen us calling to the community for more contemporary images – our upcoming joint exhibition with Johns Hopkins University, Jews on the Move: Baltimore and the Suburban Exodus, 1945-1968, meant a lot of new collecting for appropriate photographs.

Challenges of the Digital Age 

1985.090.014 East Baltimore Street and Lloyd Street, with Second Presbyterian Church, Talmud Torah Hall, Carroll Hall, and Philip Mirvis Store, February, 1909. Gift of Earl Pruce.

This focus on more recent images presents its own challenges, beyond just convincing people that their lives and stories are just as important as those of previous generations. We live in an increasingly digital age, and like the introduction of Kodak’s first camera in 1889 (which created the first amateur photography craze by making the supplies and equipment cheap and easy to use), the digital camera has changed the face of photography. Photo albums and shoeboxes of prints are being replaced by online scrapbooks and external hard drives and those of us in charge of preserving, cataloging and making accessible these images for future generations are hard pressed to keep up with changing technology and create new ways of handling photography collections. This is not a complaint!

1998.047.004.182 Hendler Creamery Company Advertisement. Anonymous gift.

In fact, the Museum has committed itself to the high resolution digitization of our entire photograph collection. Don’t worry; we’re not planning to throw out any of our prints! But digitization offers us a few large benefits – creating digital files of our photographs through scanning allows us to make our collection available to a larger audience without the constraints of distance or even time. Because our collections catalog Past Perfect is available online, people can look at our digitized images at any hour of the day or night, from as close as up the street to as far away as the coasts of Australia. Digitizing our images also extends the life of their print counterparts – the less a physical item can be handled, the less deterioration or accidental damage is a risk. Digitization is also a kind of insurance policy against wholesale catastrophe. Our digital files exist both here at the Museum and at an offsite location, to protect against total loss in the case of fire, flood or alien invasion.  The percentage of the photograph collection that has been digitized over the last five years has more than doubled through the dedicated efforts of myself, archivist Jennifer Vess and the invaluable help of more than a dozen interns and volunteers.

Still More Interns 

Speaking of interns – they’re not just scanning photographs! Here at the JMM we pride ourselves on our internship program, from our bevy of full time summer interns (we’re up to a baker’s dozen this year) to our swiftly expanding “winternship program,” which takes advantage of the break most university students have between the fall and spring semesters, to our more traditional semester interns. These interns are truly priceless. It is the work of interns that has allowed us to catalog and digitize so much of our photography, especially those that come in from large institutions – for instance, the 5,000+ photographs that arrived with the Baltimore Hebrew University Collection in 2009 would not be completely organized, housed, and cataloged today without the hard work of interns Shelby Silvernell and Megan Dalrymple. The efforts of this summer’s photo archive interns, Matt Oliva and Kenny have seen the 700+ collection of Hendler Creamery Company images not only cataloged but scanned – and their internship is only half over! Interns Katie Avery and Ryan Wiggins helped get the first photo archive inventory rolling; Rosemary Fitzsimmons made major progress on the 3,000+ Friedenwald Family photographs, describing photo after photo of landscapes and travel. Interns Kim Machado, and Berkley Kilgore were instrumental in handling a huge incoming collection and Rachael Gilman made significant inroads in scanning. Last summer, Mary Dwan and Emilie Reed scoured the collection for images to illustrate two different JMM publications, as did Ginevra Shay over the winter. I could not ask for more productive, enthusiastic , and helpful budding professionals!

We’re Counting on You to Document Our History

1987.112.007.001 Max Meyers, Phil Weinstein, Sol Cohen, Lewis Bomstein, and Al Meinen carrying Torah scrolls during the closing of Lubawitz Nusach Ari on Quantico Avenue, 1969. Photo by Jerome F. Esterson. Gift of Max R. Meyers.

The JMM’s photo archive is large, and (in my own humble opinion) invaluable. Nowhere else will you find Maryland’s Jewish population so well represented and in such an encompassing way. The scope of our photographic collection ranges from the intensely personal to the broadly public and everything in between. Whether telling the story of an individual immigrant, the rise and evolution of a national business, or charting the course of an institution in pictures, our photo archive can show it – and we’re always looking for more.

So get snapping!

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