JMM Insights: Small Change

Posted on June 21st, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Executive Director Marvin Pinkert, with a behind-the-scenes look at an upcoming display. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


Most of our JMM Insights newsletters are dedicated to the major exhibits and program series that shape our calendar. But some of the most interesting projects we work on are small showcase exhibits that allow us to respond to targets of opportunity without the long lead times associated with feature shows. Our next showcase display, Redeemable: Baltimore’s $2 Bill and the Making of American Currency, opens July 7th and runs through August 11th.

The inspiration for this project was a phone call just a few months ago from a friend of the JMM in New York, Morris Offit.  He let me know that he had recently donated a $2 bill printed by the Continental Congress bearing the signature of Benjamin Levy to the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia (with the goal of strengthening the story of Jewish contributions to our war for Independence.  Benjamin Levy who came to Baltimore in 1773, is usually credited as being the first Jewish resident to permanently settle in this city.

This news reached us about the same time we were getting set to open Fashion Statement and triggered the thought that, of all the accessories we “wear,” money is perhaps the one whose design we most take for granted. We searched our collection for other artifacts that spoke to the connection between the appearance of currency and its perceived value , and found three other items that fit this category: a pair of bank notes designed by Baltimore artist Solomon Carvalho; a set of coins stamped by Civil War sutler, Lazarus Goldheim; and bank notes from the early 20th century signed by bank director Louis Kann.

We started asking ourselves “what gives money its value?” – a question raised by all four artifacts – “were they redeemable?” We realized that if we could borrow the $2 bill we could tell an engaging story about the emergence of American money and four members of the Baltimore Jewish community who participated in that history.

The Museum of the American Revolution accepted our loan request, and we quickly completed some preliminary research. We decided to time our opening of the showcase exhibit with the Sunday of July 4th weekend.

Another “small change” on the horizon is the virtual tour of the Anne Frank House to complement our Stitching History from the Holocaust exhibit on the first two Sundays in August. This will be our first experiment in using the new Oculus lenses that were donated to us this month.

Our next showcase exhibit will be a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Eddie’s of Roland Park, set to open on September 15.

So this summer when you come back for a second look at Fashion Statement or to attend one of the wonderful programs in our Recovery and Renewal: The Immigration Experience series, don’t forget to be on the lookout for small change.*


*and, speaking of change, a reminder: The Associated’s annual campaign “Change Begins Here” closes at the end of the month. JMM encourages you to support the organization that is our number one source of funds.


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JMM Insights: Recovery & Renewal

Posted on May 17th, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Program Manager Trillion Attwood, as she shares a look at the development of our newest program series, Recovery & Renewal: The Immigration Experience. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


This Sunday, May 19th at 1:00 pm, we open a new series of programs in partnership with Baltimore Hebrew Congregation with generous support from the Lois Rosenfield Caring Fund of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

The series, titled Recovery & Renewal: The Immigration Experience, has been in development since 2018 and is inspired by our current exhibit Stitching History from the Holocaust. This exhibit, on loan from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, explores the attempts made by one woman and her husband to escape from Nazi persecution and find refuge in America. The exhibit reminds viewers that the staggering loss of life during the Holocaust denied the world not merely of millions of human beings, but of the potential achievements of those individuals—whether artistic, scientific, political, philosophical, or otherwise.

At the JMM we use programming to add to the conversations that are started within our exhibits. In the case of Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini we decided to explore in greater detail subjects such as Houdini’s wife Bess, his time in Hollywood, and his place in Vaudeville history.

As we began to think about programing to accompany Stitching History from the Holocaust, and the national debate surrounding immigration was increasingly noisy, impassioned, and complicated, we saw an opportunity. We decided to use our programming to not just explore the past, but also explore how the lessons that were learned (or at least should have been learned) during the Holocaust– apply to our current situation.

Much of the current political rhetoric around immigration mirrors that of the 1930s and 1940s. For example, the way in which individuals’ religion was perceived to be indicative of their potential negative impact upon society, or the way in which individuals, regardless of religion, were denied access to safe havens despite facing intolerable and dangerous conditions in their homes.

As we explored our options in this vein, we learned that Baltimore Hebrew Congregation was also looking to explore similar themes. This led to a collaboration and the development of this series. Both the Museum and Baltimore Hebrew wanted a series that was easily accessible and would explore both the history of the Holocaust and contemporary stories of immigration.

We hope this series will encourage greater understanding and empathy for those who are trying to enter our country today, while dispelling some of the myths and misinformation within some political rhetoric. By encouraging visitors to act now, we hope to avoid future generations having to ask the same questions: What could have been? What achievements were lost?

The generous funding provided by the Lois Rosenfield Caring Fund to support this series means we are able to offer additional features for the series’ programs. All the presentations will be followed by a light reception, during which we will continue to discuss the themes explored within the presentations. We will take time to really reflect upon what we have heard and think about how we might best be able to apply the lessons learned to the current immigration situation and our own lives.

Additionally, a free bus will be offered from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation to the JMM for all programs — you don’t have to worry about finding parking downtown. This bus is available for anyone attending the programs, not just Baltimore Hebrew Congregation members!

This is certain to be an excellent, thought provoking, and inspiring series. Please join us for one or more of the upcoming programs – I would especially encourage you to try to attend one from each era of immigration explored.

You can find a full list of the programs in this series which are taking place both at the JMM and Baltimore Hebrew Congregation here.


Above images of immigration selected from the collections of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.


 

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Check the Label

Posted on April 19th, 2019 by

This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Tracie Guy-Decker, deputy director. She’s sharing a behind-the-scenes look at one aspect of the development of our two newest exhibits, Fashion Statement and Stitching History from the Holocaust. Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


When I was about 7, I really wanted Jordache jeans. It was the early eighties. They were twice the cost of the Wranglers, but they also brought a currency with them the Wranglers just didn’t have. The Wranglers might have fit, but I believed the Jordache would help me fit in.

Despite my first-grader experience with jeans, historically, clothing labels were usually hidden from everyone but the wearer. Their generally “hidden” status makes the importance of labels all the more remarkable. Clothing labels can carry a lot of weight – I don’t mean literal pounds, but rather intellectual, sociological, and emotional heft.

Labels are a way for designers and manufacturers to make their mark (literally) and for clothing wearers to assert their belongingness to social circles. This ubiquitous “artifact within the artifact”—and all the associations it brings with it—is a common thread between Fashion Statement and Stitching History From the Holocaust.

Our wonderful “Fashion Statement” logo, by Jeremy Hoffman of Ashton Design, was inspired by several of the local clothing labels in the JMM collections (for details, see the end of this post). From the stitched border to the swooping, elegant font, Jeremy captured the essence of a high-end dressmaker, tailor, or department store’s look, without directly copying any particular shop’s logo.

We worked with Jeremy and his team through several iterations to get to the final design. Both the JMM and the Ashton Design team looked and thought deeply about the implications of font choice, word placement and size, and the relationship between the words in the logo to each other. The images above may look incredibly similar, but to a designer’s eye, the tiniest details matter!

For the in-gallery version of the logo—the first thing you see as you enter the gallery—the Ashton team came up with the brilliant idea of actually stitching the letters. They designed a board with pre-drilled holes at the appropriate places to allow them to render their existing logo design in a thick thread. The effect is of a giant clothing label.

Our colleagues at the other JMM (Jewish Museum Milwaukee) and at the Costume Shop that created Hedwig Strnad’s designs for Stitching History From the Holocaust also approached their work with an understanding of the power of the clothing label.

As they poured their hearts and passion into the project of making Hedy’s designs real, the artists at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Costume Shop decided that the dresses needed a label. Regardless of how finished the dresses might look, they could not be complete without a label to identify their designer.

Hedy’s signature, found after several years of research into her story, was used to create her own label, one that—at least for these dresses—she sadly never achieved in reality.  Hedy’s label transforms a very personal element from one of the surviving letters and creates a brand identity out of it. When we see it applied it to the professional, stylish recreations of her designs, we are reminded both of the power and importance of the clothing label, and the talent and skill Hedy could have brought to the American fashion industry, had her story ended differently.

If you haven’t seen them, yet, we invite you to come and see Fashion Statement and Stitching History at the JMM. And whether you’ve seen them or not, try to pay attention to clothing labels for a few days. What reactions do you have when you see them in your own clothes or in the store? You might be surprised at how the label alone can evoke thoughts or emotions. After all, clothing is a language. We use it to communicate with one another about who we are and where (and with whom) we belong. Labels are one form of punctuation in that unspoken language.


Label Collage:

1. Jeannette Beck, Baltimore, Maryland. Gift of Isidore Schnaper, JMM 1992.112.2. 

2. D. Adler, Ladies’ Tailor, Baltimore. From fur-trimmed opera coat owned by Anne Adler Salganik (daughter of David Adler, the tailor in question). Gift of Gordon J. Salganik, JMM 1990.133.2.

3. (top) M. Greenberg, Merchant Tailor, Baltimore, Md. Roll of nine unused labels. Gift of Zelda Cohen, JMM 1988.159.2.

3. (bottom) G.F. Adler Sons, Designers and Tailors, Baltimore. Roll of nine unused labels. Gift of Ruth Lev, JMM 1990.10.6a.

4. Florence Esther – Baltimore. From a custom-made cloche hat owned by Margot Zipper (object 34 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Margot Zipper, JMM 2013.58.2.

5. Charlow, Custom Tailors, Since 1899. Gift of Kenneth Charlow, JMM 1990.203.5.

6. Wolf Cohn, founded 1895, Baltimore, Md. From a bespoke ladies’ suit jacket owned by Naomi Biron Cohen. Gift of Maxine A. Cohen, JMM 2004.114.1.

7. Minna Myerburg, Pikesville, Md. From a satin evening gown owned by Margot Zipper (photo accompanies object 34 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Margot Zipper, JMM 2013.58.4.

8. Estelle-Fanchon, Baltimore. From a pink chiffon dress worn by Sara Fox Hettleman. Gift of Ellen Kahan Zager, JMM 2015.45.2.

9. K. Katz & Sons, Tailors, Baltimore. From morning coat owned by Samuel Sakols (object 16 in “Fashion Statement”). Gift of Blanche Sakols Schimmel, JMM 1987.39.2.

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