Behind the Scenes: Identifying the Once Upon a Time Photographs

Posted on January 29th, 2014 by

Everyone has their favorite section in the Jewish Times. For some it’s the Jewish View, others it’s the milestone life events. If you’re like me it’s the Snapshots photograph in the Mishmash section. Will this be the week that you’ll recognize someone—maybe even yourself—in the photo?

Snapshots photographs are located just about the “Overheard at Goldbergs” column.

Snapshots photographs are located just about the “Overheard at Goldbergs” column.

I might be biased as my volunteers and interns help select which images are reproduced, but I genuinely love the excited phone calls from first-time identifiers. They feel like they’ve won a prize when they proudly tell me who they know! On the other hand, I am sad someone says they recognized folks in the past but they didn’t want to call in because they figured someone else called, or that I already knew who was in the picture before we printed it.  (Trust me: we have thousands of photographs that need IDs so I wouldn’t waste your time with those that are already identified.)

No one has identified this group standing in a parking lot in August 1988.

No one has identified this group standing in a parking lot in August 1988.

There is also no penalty for (unintentionally) getting it wrong. In fact 6 people in 5 different photos have been given a “double identity.” Both names are recorded.

Double trouble!  Two out of three women have been identified with conflicting names. Left to Right: 1. Nan Rothhultz 2. Dottie Levin OR Reba (Rebecca) Cohen 3. Lucille Colliver OR Laura Rubin Lafferman

Double trouble! Two out of three women have been identified with conflicting names. Left to Right: 1. Nan Rothhultz 2. Dottie Levin OR Reba (Rebecca) Cohen 3. Lucille Colliver OR Laura Rubin Lafferman

And while I prefer that you provide the whole name, this year we had 3 first names and 5 last names given. Perhaps this will spark someone else’s memory.

The JCC volunteers were on a first-name basis. Left to Right: 1. Esther Pugauski  2. Gertrude Deitz 3. Lee (last name not provided)   4. Sam (last name not provided)

The JCC volunteers were on a first-name basis. Left to Right: 1. Esther Pugauski 2. Gertrude Deitz 3. Lee (last name not provided) 4. Sam (last name not provided)

I thought I’d run some year-end statistics on this popular feature for your consideration. Since beginning this column in 2007 there has been a steady 63-65% identification rate. This year 91 people called in to identify someone—132 someones! This means on average, each caller identified 1.4 people. 63.4% of the images published in 2013 were at least partially identified. And of those 33 photos, 64 % of the people depicted (132 of 206) were identified.

Ten people called to identify the attendees at Samuel Neistadt’s 60th birthday party. Seated Left to Right: 1. Reuben Livov 2. Samuel Neistadt  3. unidentified 4. Doris Weikers Kahn Standing Left to Right: 1. Hyman Winnik 2. Carl Friedler  3. Jacob Jaffe 4. Isaac H. Taylor. Thanks Susan Weikers Balaban, Fay Adler, Dorothy Livov, Barbie (Livov) Weiss, Ronald Taylor. Richard Taylor, Deborah Taylor, Bruce Taylor, Ellen Friedler Eisenstadt, and Norma Wollod!

Ten people called to identify the attendees at Samuel Neistadt’s 60th birthday party. Seated Left to Right: 1. Reuben Livov 2. Samuel Neistadt 3. unidentified 4. Doris Weikers Kahn. Standing Left to Right: 1. Hyman Winnik 2. Carl Friedler 3. Jacob Jaffe 4. Isaac H. Taylor. Thanks Susan Weikers Balaban, Fay Adler, Dorothy Livov, Barbie (Livov) Weiss, Ronald Taylor. Richard Taylor, Deborah Taylor, Bruce Taylor, Ellen Friedler Eisenstadt, and Norma Wollod!

I asked my favorite statistician, Ben, why our identification rate is so consistent. His response was: With enough of a randomly selected sample you can minimize the error [in this case, no identifications]… As you continue to increase your sample, you will get closer to the underlying probability or “natural rate.” In the case of your photographs the true underlying probability that a photo will be identifies is around 2/3. That seems to make sense, right?

Can you identify the other 33%? The B’nai Brith award recipient is among the people who aren’t identified.

Can you identify the other 33%? The B’nai Brith award recipient is among the people who aren’t identified.

Callers provided a few clues about these Hadassah ladies. Left to Right:  1. [man] unidentified 2. unidentified 3. unidentified 4.  Brownie Cummings (past president of Hadassah) 5.[standing behind] possibly Sarah Kapiloff 6.____ Grief 7. Sara Jacobs 8. Jenny Ehrlich 9. unidentified

Callers provided a few clues about these Hadassah ladies. Left to Right: 1. [man] unidentified 2. unidentified 3. unidentified 4. Brownie Cummings (past president of Hadassah) 5.[standing behind] possibly Sarah Kapiloff 6.____ Grief 7. Sara Jacobs 8. Jenny Ehrlich 9. unidentified

Naturally I was intrigued so I looked a little deeper into our identifications. It seems that photographs with 5 or more people are more 14.6% more likely to have even one person identified (69.6%) than photographs with 4 or fewer people (55%). Personal photographs of an intimate group might go entirely unidentified, but pictures from an institution, organization, or school almost always get at least one identification. The one major exception: there seems to be a black hole of knowledge related to photos taken at the JCC in the 1970s.

No has identified anyone in this photo of a JCC art class, March 1977

No has identified anyone in this photo of a JCC art class, March 1977

The Babysitters Club might have been a popular book series in the mid-1980s, but no one has identified these babysitters at the JCC in August 1977.

The Babysitters Club might have been a popular book series in the mid-1980s, but no one has identified these babysitters at the JCC in August 1977.

Armed with this new-found knowledge I can probably increase our identification rate slightly by choosing group photos from fun community events dating after 1950s. How can you help our efforts? Call or e-mail me if you recognize someone in a Snapshots photo. Even if you don’t subscribe to the Jewish Times, the JMM posts the photos on all of our social media outlets. You can also search our database jmm.pastperfect-online.com and enter keywords such as “Walk for Israel”, “Beth Tfiloh” or “Summer Camps.” Click the “send feedback” button and tell me who you recognize. Using this feature, three callers identified 55 out of 57 people in four photographs – a 96% success rate. Now that’s a statistic we should strive for ever year!

2009.040.0076.

This photo of formerly unidentified people at Baltimore Hebrew College commencement exercises, 1975 was ID’d by a researcher. Left to Right: Unidentified woman, Dr. George Berlin, Mr. Aaron Leibtag, Rabbi Levi Smolar, and Dr. Barry Gittlen. Thanks for your help, Susan!

 

A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Jobi, click HERE. To see more “Once Upon a Time”/”Snapshots” photos, click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




From Flat to Fluffy: The Conservation of Rabbi Szold’s hat

Posted on November 7th, 2013 by


If you are too young to know about Breck shampoo—or if you just want to reminisce about 1970s hair products—check out this Youtube video. 

Incorporating original objects from the JMM permanent collection in exhibitions—especially traveling exhibitions—is an important way to bring the focus to Jewish life in Maryland. This was particularly true with Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. Maryland was truly a boarder state during the Civil War and Jews were as divided as other groups when choosing sides. While I knew about his role on the pulpit in Baltimore, I was surprised to learn that Rabbi Benjamin Szold was asked to intercede on behalf of Private George Kuhn, a young Jewish Union deserter. Although Szold was unsuccessful, he remained with the young man until he was executed.

You can see an original copy of this Harper’s Weekly depicting the aforementioned execution in the Passages through Fire exhibition.

You can see an original copy of this Harper’s Weekly depicting the aforementioned execution in the Passages through Fire exhibition.

In addition to the trunk that Szold used when he emigrated from Breslau, the Museum also owns the black velvet hat he wore at about the time he was recruited by Temple Oheb Shalom in 1859. This artifact was perfect for the The Minhag America section of the exhibition, explaining the diverse practices in each Jewish community at the start of the Civil War.

1998.115.2  A portrait of Rabbi Benjamin Szold

1998.115.2 A portrait of Rabbi Benjamin Szold

Unfortunately, the hat was in poor condition and could not be exhibited without conservation. As evidenced in the photo below, the velvet was completely split, and falling off the hat to expose a yellow/brown padding structure beneath, which too had tears, soiling, and damage. In addition to holes, the shape of the hat was distorted and crushed, and there was a considerable amount of dust accumulated across the surface!

Demonstrating that the black velvet is literally being held on by a thread.

Demonstrating that the black velvet is literally being held on by a thread.

 It looks like a toupee!

It looks like a toupee!

Conservation work can be time consuming and expensive—which is why the JMM only conserves select items, usually in conjunction with an exhibition. The American Institution of Conservation website was helpful in identifying specialized conservators by location. After we approved her treatment proposal, textile conservator Julia Brennan worked on Rabbi Szold’s hat. In her treatment report Julia explained the process of her work:

·         The hat was humidified over several days in an enclosed chamber to slowly introduce moisture into the fabric. This made the hat more malleable, and throughout the humidification process it was gradually manipulated from its collapsed shape to its original shape. As the hat softened, it was gently filled out with tissue to hold the shape.

·         The hat really took its original shape and the velvet is much more relaxed and supple.

·         Large, split areas of the hat were lined with black cotton for stability. The split edges were then re-aligned and hand sewn to the black cotton with hand stitching, using a color-matched Skala thread. It was necessary to have the supports, as the velvet edges are too brittle to attach to each other.

Left, a split, broken area lined with black cotton. Right, the area stitched back into place. A small seam of the cotton is visible.

Left, a split, broken area lined with black cotton. Right, the area stitched back into place. A small seam of the cotton is visible.

·         In a large area where the velvet was missing entirely, a new piece of carefully matched black velvet was inserted and stitched into place with hand stitching. This fills the hole, and makes the hat more complete and attractive.

Left, a large hole in the hat. Right, the hole with new black velvet inserted to mask the hole.

Left, a large hole in the hat. Right, the hole with new black velvet inserted to mask the hole.

Our biggest concern with the Szold hat was whether it would be stable enough for exhibition after treatment. In addition to conserving the hat, Julia built a custom support to keep it in its original, stable shape. The support consists of four parts:

1. A “donut” made of cotton stockinette and batting, exactly fitting the main body of the hat. This will prevent the velvet from the stress of collapsing, which contributed to the original splits.

2. A small, dome shaped piece made of ethafoam and batting, covered in a non-abrasive black stretch fabric. This supports the center of the body of the hat, which the donut does not support.

3. A flat disc made of ethafoam, batting, and black stretch fabric fit to the exact dimensions of the hat brim. This keeps the brim straight, preventing further wrinkling and making current wrinkling less obvious.

4. A second, taller disc for the entire supported hat to sit on, also made of ethafoam, batting, and covered in a cream colored stretch fabric. This elevates the hat when its other support pieces are in place so the brim does not touch the resting surface. It can also be used for display purposes. Or not.

Interior Support

Interior Support

Right Side Up

Right Side Up

The hat has undergone a complete transformation! It is no longer limp and torn. It’s gone from Flat to Fluffy.

In the “Results and Recommendations” section of her report Julia cautions that the velvet is still extremely brittle, an irreversible problem. Some small splits remain in the velvet because the repair process is so stressful to the fabric that repairing them would cause more harm than good. The hat must be handled with extreme delicacy and caution, or more splits will occur, and current splits may get larger. The hat should be kept in a carefully monitored environment with low light. Cleaning should only be done by a conservation professional due to the delicacy of the fabric.

I got this travel sized Breck shampoo when I stayed at the Channel Inn in DC for the MAAM conference in October. It really makes your hair fluffy! Just don’t use it on historic artifacts.

I got this travel sized Breck shampoo when I stayed at the Channel Inn in DC for the MAAM conference in October. It really makes your hair fluffy! Just don’t use it on historic artifacts.

Rabbi Szold’s hat is on view in the Passages through the Fire exhibition on view now at the JMM. Funding for this important project was made possible by the Associated.

JobiA blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Jobi click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




How many does it take…

Posted on October 6th, 2013 by

IMG_3979

…to install a map?

Check out this photo montage of the crew hanging the map!

Measuring

Measuring to center to figure out how high the map should be so that it is eye-level.

Lining up the blue tape that will mark center along the edge.

Lining up the blue tape that will mark center along the edge.

Leveling the bottom.

Leveling the bottom.

Confirming that its centered.

Confirming that its centered.

And leveled on center

And leveled on center.

Phew.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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