The Hunt for Hidden Treasures-A Visit to Sinai Hospital

Posted on October 30th, 2015 by

While we all are excited about the newest exhibit, Paul Simon: Words and Music, the museum is always hard at work. My name is Rachel Rabinowitz and I am the current Exhibitions intern here at the museum. I am lucky enough to be helping out with an exhibit coming next year to the museum. “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and American Medicine” will highlight all the ways Jews have become involved with American Medicine. One of the ways the museum is able to showcase this amazing history is through object that our loaned to our museum. I was lucky enough to join Karen Falk, Joanna Church and Alicia Puglionesi on a recent visit to pick up some items from Sinai Hospital in downtown Baltimore. Although there were so many great artifacts, images, and objects to choose from in the library, we chose a select few to use in the exhibit.

Here are few of the items you may see in our upcoming exhibit:



This odd looking stethoscope confused the staff here as to its exact use. My research, through the internet and the help of my mother (a gynecologist) lead me to find out is it called a fetoscope. This device was first described by doctors David Hillis and Joseph De Lee in 1917 and 1922 respectively. This device allows a doctor to monitor the heartbeat of the fetus during labor. The metal headband was attached so that the doctor could have their hands free to deliver the baby. (Sources: Feinstein, N., & Health, O. (2003). Fetal heart monitoring: Principles and practices (3rd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub. QCOM – Fetal Heart Monitoring – History – Page 2. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2015.

Children's coloring book

Children’s coloring book

This item stands the test of time as coloring is an activity that children seem to always love. This coloring book from the 1960s was created by the Sinai Women’s Auxiliary to help children understand what it means to be a patient in the hospital.

Hospital Gift Shop

Hospital Gift Shop

One thing you will always see at a hospital is a gift shop. This image from the 1940s shows two women volunteering at the gift shop at Sinai Hospital when it was located on Monument Street. You may notice a lot of the same items that were sold in the gift shop then are still sold today such as magazines and candy.
Keep a lookout for these items in our upcoming visit! Feel free to comment about these images or any memories you have about Sinai Hospital here in Baltimore.

A blog post by Exhibitions Intern Rachel Rabinowitz. To read  more posts from interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

It’s interesting to me; is it interesting to you?

Posted on July 9th, 2015 by

What do people find interesting? This is what I thought about as I scrolled through the 50 page exhibit script, looking for the best items.  Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, opening in Spring 2016, will be a traveling exhibit. This means that it will start here at its “home institution” and then it will travel to other museums for display. But first, other museums need to agree to host the exhibit, and to do this they will look at a marketing package which includes a list of its best objects, photos, and documents. This list is what I worked on.

Many questions popped up as I determined which items were the “best”. Would people other than me find this interesting? Does it sort of summarize the section of the exhibit that it is in? And is it instantly visually interesting, or would someone need to know the context of the item to understand it? A good number of items in the exhibit will also be loans from other institutions, so I had to make sure we were actually on track for a successful loan before I added it to my “best objects” list.

So what did I choose? 36 objects, items, and documents out of the 400 some items in the exhibit. The items work together to capture the big idea of the exhibit as well as being just plain interesting! The items described below are three of my personal favorites.

Ma’aseh Tuviyya, Tobias Cohen, 1708, Germany National Library of Medicine

Ma’aseh Tuviyya, Tobias Cohen, 1708, Germany
National Library of Medicine

This image is from an early 18th century book about medical practices. Written in Hebrew, and published in Germany, it provides a fascinating look into how medicine and the human body were viewed in the past. This specific image is a metaphor between the human body and a house. Intricately detailed, one can see the different rooms of the house on the right that symbolize parts of the body.

JMM 1991.35.24

JMM 1991.35.24

This is quite possibly the strangest piece in the exhibit, a ring made with vulcanized rubber and a porcelain molar. It was made by Edmund Kahn for a marriage proposal to Gertrude Fried in 1904. Being a student in dental school, he could not afford a ring. He created this interesting thing from things he found in the lab, and it is without a doubt very strange. But it shows more than just a man’s craft skills, it gives a view into life into what dental school was like for students.

JMM 1995.151.15

JMM 1995.151.15

When Sinai Hospital in Baltimore was built, it was primarily a Jewish institution. However, it was obvious that it would need to cater to other cultures in order to survive. So these foreign language phrase cards were made to help with this diversity. The hospital staff could use these phrase cards to communicate with non-English speaking patients, resulting in a hospital that was truly for “everybody”.

These three items stood out to me among the 400 some items in the upcoming exhibit. They are visually interesting and vital to the understanding of the exhibit. Hopefully other institutions will see this too and want to host the exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America.

SophiaA blog post by Exhibitions Intern Sophia Brocenos. To read more posts by interns click HERE.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Pause for Thought

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by

“You see what she did there? That’s good. That’s really good. You hear that? She paused. That silence makes people feel like they need to say more—like they need to fill the space. You can get some great stuff that way.”

Karen Falk, our curator at the museum, is sharing with me some tricks of the trade before I conduct an informal oral history over the phone the following day.

And these are tricks that I could definitely use—I’ve sometimes been known to exhibit signs of mild tremors when asked to even ring up distant relatives. While the idea of speaking with a stranger about their career choices and personal values is then definitely a little intimidating at first, it’s actually not so much the conversation that puts me on edge, but rather something about the nature of speaking over the phone. It’s precisely that pause that Karen keeps talking about—the lingering silence that makes my palms sweat as imagine the other person’s expression on the receiving end.

The tools of the trade!

The tools of the trade!

We’re conducting these interviews as part of our research for the museum’s upcoming exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America (set to open in March of 2016). A common occurrence at the museum  as many of the exhibits maintain a unique first person perspective, I’ve already read through five oral history transcriptions conducted with medical professionals (or their family members) who worked in and around Baltimore during the 50s.  We’ll eventually use these interviews either as brief quotes in the soundscape of the exhibit, or in their more complete form and create a listening station for visitors to enjoy on their own.

However they ultimately become incorporated into the exhibit, this unique opportunity to explore these stories was one of things I looked forward to most when I began this internship a month ago and has truly been an incredibly fascinating, and at times, even humbling experience. One interviewee spoke about Jewish quotas in nursing schools when her sister applied in the early 1950s and the blatant antisemitism she was confronted with by the administration. Another weaved colorful stories about a family business fabricating anatomically correct plastic models for medical schools. Nearly every oral history transcription I read highlighted a sense of the interconnectedness of medicine and Jewish values—of a shared notion of the tradition of community care and the sanctity of human life.

Reading these personal insights made me all the more excited to organize my own oral history interview, to be conducted with a current nurse practitioner student in New York.  With this conversation and a few others, Karen is looking to acquire more contemporary perspectives in the field and I look forward to uncovering the new stories and experiences of someone not much older than myself. But then my early onset Parkinson’s flares up again…

Despite my growing nervousness, the following afternoon I felt confident in the knowledge that I was at least formally prepared. Armed with a few more insider tricks from Karen, a prepared list of some twenty questions, and an intimidating piece of recording equipment, I felt pretty well equipped. And, for the most part, I was. I successfully managed to set up the microphone, I asked the questions we had prepared, and somehow even overcame the impulse to fill the static void that inevitably arose. But what I wasn’t at all expecting was to be so blown away by my interviewee’s perspective and career choices, so much so that the silence that hung in the air wasn’t as piercing as I anticipated it to be. In fact, it wasn’t unsettling at all.

I realized, admittedly only after hanging up, that this phone call in fact allowed me to let her words speak entirely for themselves—liberated from the visual stimuli that can otherwise distract or distort our impressions. The lingering pauses that I am now playing back as I transcribe the interview don’t magnify the unease I felt, but rather the power of her words.

IMG_0999A blog post by Exhibitions Intern Elizabeth Livesey. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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