Going For a Drive Up Park Heights Avenue

Posted on March 7th, 2019 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.


Growing up in Montgomery County, I did not spend much time in Baltimore; we came up to the aquarium, the science museum, and the Power Plant a few times, but my family’s focus was on the DC museums and attractions. As an adult I occasionally visited Baltimore museums for work and for fun, but the city was still kind of a mystery to me. When hanging out with a friend who lived in Medfield in the mid-2000s, I would drive myself around 695 and come into the city down 83 – and then back out again the same way – just to avoid having to navigate between the end of the JFX and the beginning of 395 on the unfamiliar downtown streets.

Now, after 4 ½ years at the JMM and 4 ½ years of driving to work, to the Park Heights JCC, to the Associated’s Mount Royal offices (which I could not find the first time I tried to go), and to various neighborhoods in and around the city to meet with donors and lenders, I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it. (And yes, I can now get between the end of 83 and the beginning of 395 with no problems.) Yesterday when traveling between two loan pick-ups I took a wrong turn in Pikesville, found myself facing Surburban Orthodox Toras Chaim, and immediately concluded that I knew how to get myself back on track. Aha! Success! I know my way around!

This, of course, means that I’ll get totally lost next time I try to find something without my phone guiding me. But it also means that, while I’m driving around, I can devote more attention to my surroundings and less to the map, which brings me to the point of this blog post: historic synagogues. Now that I’ve gotten to know historic Jewish Baltimore as well as the modern streetscape, driving past the synagogues and schools in Park Heights and other neighborhoods is like spotting old friends – some with the same name, some that have changed. Here are just a few photos from our collections for you to enjoy today (and don’t forget that you can look through our historic photograph collection yourself, on our online database).

In the 1970s, Paul Schlossberg took Polaroid photos of many Baltimore synagogues – now a useful reference for us, several decades on. Here’s the front of Beth Jacob (5713 Park Heights Avenue), dedicated in 1953; the building is now used by Cheder Chabad. Gift of Paul Schlossberg. JMM 1984.24.6

Artist’s rendering of the proposed Har Sinai building (6300 Park Heights Avenue), 1957.  The building is now (2019) home to Bnos Yisorel of Baltimore, while Har Sinai’s congregation is based in Owings Mills. Gift of Har Sinai Congregation. JMM 2012.108.107

Temple Oheb Shalom (7310 Park Heights Avenue) around 1960, in a photo taken by another conscientious recorder-of-synagogues, Menasha Katz. This building, dedicated in 1960, is still occupied by the Temple Oheb Shalom congregation. Museum purchase. JMM 1987.137.92 

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More than a Run of the “Mill”

Posted on February 22nd, 2019 by

Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker and Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church collaborated on this month’s edition of JMM Insights which, somewhat coincidentally, is all about collaboration! Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


Have you ever heard of “The Mill” at Stevenson University? Well until last year we hadn’t either. That’s when we held a new projects briefing for Will Backstrom, Senior Vice President for Client and Community Relations at PNC Bank. Will, who has been a great friend and supporter of JMM, stopped the conversation when we brought up the topic of Fashion Statement (the exhibit on the way in which clothing expresses personal and social identity) and Stitching History from the Holocaust (a traveling exhibit from Milwaukee. that celebrates the creative talents of a designer who perished in the Shoah).

Will, who keeps tabs on Baltimore’s cultural scene, pointed out that just as our exhibit was closing next summer the Maryland Historical Society would be putting on a major exhibit of their extraordinary collection of clothing. He thought we might cross-market our projects. And then he had one other thought, “what about the Mill?”

The “Mill” it turns out, is a capstone course for students at Stevenson University with an interest in design. It brings together students from departments like Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Film & Moving Image, and Business Communications to work together, almost as if they were a design and marketing agency, on solving a specific, real-world problem. With Will’s help, JMM, the Maryland Historical Society, and Stevenson U faculty and students came together and we became “clients” of the Mill.

Stevenson students in the Mill are incorporating our project into a much larger endeavor: a public affairs campaign to reinvigorate the fashion industry in the city of Baltimore. They developed a name for the effort (Stitching MD Together), a brand (stitchingmdtogether.org), and a full plan to research, educate, engage, and, they hope, encourage a growth in the fashion industry in the state. They are even hoping that, when the Maryland campaign is successful, other states can use the same template.

As part of this collaboration, JMM staff have visited the Mill classroom a number of times, listening to student presentations, discussing the upcoming projects, and even presenting a unit on social media marketing. Students have also used JMM and MdHS for their research into the history of the fashion industry in Baltimore and in Maryland and are creating a documentary film. Their research proved interesting and productive in more ways than we initially anticipated!

Stevenson University students setting up for documentary filming in the JMM Library, October 26, 2018.

As part of the students’ documentary project, they came to the JMM to interview Joanna, and film some of our textile collections. To make sure those pieces got a good showing, Trillion and Joanna turned the library into a miniature photo studio and prepped a variety of outfits to a presentable display standard, ready for their respective close-ups. A handy side benefit of this process was that we were able to take some good photographs for our own purposes, in advance of the upcoming Fashion Statement exhibit.

This ermine coat (complete with tails sewn into the interior seams), made by Havelock and Selenkow, Baltimore, was a 35th birthday present to Alene Steiger Adler from her husband Charles Adler, Jr., in 1941. It will be featured in “Fashion Statement,” opening April 7, 2019. Gift of Amalie Adler Ascher, JMM 1989.167.30a.

The student film crew got some on-the-ground experience (not that they weren’t already quite skilled) along with the footage they needed for their documentary. In addition, they got the chance to take a close look at museum artifacts, and at techniques for interpretation and display. An article of clothing can tell you so much about the person who wore it and the times and culture in which it was worn, but people haven’t always given that idea much thought; sharing that insight, and seeing students’ respond to it, is a delight. We think this deeper understanding of the roles of clothing and fashion will help them strengthen their campaign.

Joanna talking with Grace Clark, part of the Stitching Maryland Together Communications team, prior to the interview.

In addition to the deliverables of the research and the documentary, we’ve also been partnering with Stevenson students for some of the details of the visitor experience in Fashion Statement, the JMM-curated portion of the double-bill opening April 7th. The interactive experiences in our exhibits are often among the most memorable to our visitors, and among the most complicated for museum staff to create. For Fashion Statement, Stevenson professors have helped us brainstorm interesting mechanisms for engaging visitors even as their students are helping us make those ideas a reality. We are working with several different Stevenson classes and individual students to achieve the interactive visitor experience. From graphic artists to aspiring fashion designers, the collaboration with the University is providing JMM with fresh ideas and talent as well as providing students with real-world, client-driven experiences.

All of these many positive outcomes have much to remind us about the power of partnership and collaboration. And with deep gratitude to Mr. Backstrom, whose eyes lit up when we told him about Fashion Statement, we reiterate the truth of the fact that one person has enormous power to make a difference: all of these synergies and win-win moments were made possible by a single conversation many, many months ago.


 

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“My Baltimore Friends,” 1893

Posted on January 17th, 2019 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

This spring (spring is coming, right??) will see a wonderful variety of gallery exhibits, lobby exhibits, and programs at the JMM … which means that the Collections team has been keeping busy, and you’ll soon see the fruits of our labors. It also means that much as I enjoy deep dives into artifacts and documents for the blog, I’m going to keep it short this time, and simply show off a delightful little object, apropos of nothing in particular.

Gift of Alice Liebman. JMM 1996.29.1

Blanche Bamberger Spaeth, daughter of David and Johanna Bamberger of Baltimore, received this signature vase in 1893. It features handpainted violets on the back and sides; gilding on the neck and the exuberant handles; and, on the front, a transfer printed wheel of signatures. Next to her photo, in the center, she noted “My Baltimore friends,” with the date.

Her granddaughter, the donor of the vase, believed it was a gift for Blanche’s 18th birthday, but some inconclusive census research shows that she might have been a few years older in 1893, and indeed she’d been married for three years at that point; on December 7, 1890, she and Joseph Spaeth were married by Rabbi Henry Hochheimer of Oheb Israel, Baltimore. The donor told us that as an adult, Blanche lived in Switzerland and Germany for many years; I wonder if this vase was actually a going-away present from her “Baltimore friends.”  According to the Smithsonian Gardens, purple violets signify “thoughts occupied with love,” which seems like an appropriate sentiment for such an occasion… or it was just the design that the friend tasked with securing the vase liked best.

Either way, our next task is to start identifying the signatures – I’ve spotted her brother, Jonas Bamberger, along with a few other familiar names – and using them to build a better picture of the life of a well-to-do young lady of Baltimore in the 1890s.

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