Museums and Society

Posted on February 23rd, 2017 by

Earlier this week I hosted a group of students from Johns Hopkins University who are taking a class exploring the theme of Museums and Social Responsibility. In addition to coursework and lectures, during which students discuss and debate the extent to which museums serve as vehicles for social change, students also participate in field trips to several museums where they have the opportunity to learn about the many different ways in which museums engage with their communities. Students are also expected to work with a museum of their choice to help design a project that helps a museum respond to a specific challenge.

During their visit to the JMM, eight students toured our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit as well as the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Voices of Lombard Street

During their visit to the JMM, eight students toured our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit as well as the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Programs Manager Trillion leads the tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Programs Manager Trillion leads the tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

We then spent the remainder of our time together in the Lloyd Street Synagogue (LSS) where we talked about how our Museum approaches community engagement through public and educational programs. Students were especially interested in learning about how even though the JMM mainly serves a Jewish audience (and our history and mission are directly tied to providing opportunities for Jewish visitors to connect to their heritage), we also are deeply committed to serving non-Jewish audiences and to providing a venue for discourse and discovery for visitors of diverse backgrounds.

The class checks out "The Synagogue Speaks"

The class checks out “The Synagogue Speaks”

When asked about a challenge that the JMM faces, we talked about how our staff has been searching for ways to animate the LSS beyond our regular public tours. For the past few months, staff has been in conversation with one another as well as with our colleagues at other historic sites and museums in an effort to reexamine our preconceived notions about what attracts visitors to visit and how we can conduct small scale programmatic experiments to help us engage new audiences. Students were interested in hearing about these conversations as they asked terrific questions and offered suggestions for new ideas.

We look forward to working with several of the students in the months ahead and to seeing what exciting new ideas they come up with!

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Mapping Jewish Community – A Hopkins Mini-Course

Posted on January 13th, 2014 by

Back in late November, I received an intriguing email from a history Phd candidate from Johns Hopkins University. She and another history grad student were putting together a mini course for JHU’s intercession, in which undergraduate students can take 3-week courses in a wide variety of topics that they wouldn’t necessarily get to explore in the normal semester. This particular mini course was to be about mapping Jewish community in Baltimore—and what better place to start then the Jewish Museum of Maryland?

New facade!

The JMM

The three of us and Ilene Dackman-Alon met to discuss the scope of the course and to see where we could help out.  It was ultimately decided that the class would have their first meeting here at the museum, where they would tour the synagogues and exhibits, and later on, back in their classroom, our living history character, Ida Rehr (played by Katherine Lyons), would come visit them.

Cover of the Voices of Lombard Street brochure

Voices of Lombard Street

Last Tuesday, the class arrived, eager to learn about the roots of Jewish Baltimore. Before beginning the tour, they took turns introducing themselves and explaining why they had signed up for the course. Many of the students came from mixed backgrounds—one Jewish parent—and so were curious about the history and culture from which they came. When the instructors—the grad students—introduced themselves, they talked about how their identities weren’t shaped just by their religion, but also by where in the country they grew up. One, who grew up in Viriginia, said she felt that she had the very specific identity of being a Southern Jew, while the other, who grew up in New York City, related strongly to the cultural identity of being a New York Jew. Listening to this conversation, Ilene and I couldn’t help but wish that the Chosen Food exhibit were still here!

LSS by Jono David

LSS by Jono David

The students enjoyed seeing the two historic synagogues and learning about the migration of the Jewish community within Baltimore. It’s great to see so many people who are interested in learning about the Jewish American experience and identity and that the JMM is viewed as an invaluable resource for schools of all kinds!

abby krolik copyA blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Dr. Ruth Finkelstein: a Pioneer in Women’s Health

Posted on July 9th, 2013 by

Clare RobbinsA blog post from Collections Intern Clare Robbins. Clare works with senior collections manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Clare and other JMM interns, click here.

This summer I’ve had a wonderful time working with Jobi in the Collections Department at the JMM.  I’ve worked on a variety of projects including processing the 2012-2013 collections, creating a condition report notebook for the “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit, and even writing the catalogue numbers on surface of several objects.

After practicing writing 1984.16.1 for thirty minutes, I finally wrote it on the bottle.

After practicing writing 1984.16.1 for thirty minutes, I finally wrote it on the bottle.

Last week, I started transcribing an oral history with Dr. Ruth Finkelstein that will be used in the upcoming “Jews, Health and Healing” exhibit.  Dr. Finkelstein was a Baltimorean obstetrician and gynecologist beginning in the late 1930s through the 1980s who worked for better health care and family planning for women.   Listening to Dr. Finkelstein discuss her experiences has definitely been one of the highlights from my summer.  While I haven’t finished the interview, I thought I would share what I have found so far.

I’m busy transcribing Dr. Ruth Finkelstein’s interview.

I’m busy transcribing Dr. Ruth Finkelstein’s interview.

Dr. Finkelstein grew up in New York City with her parents and four siblings. Her father decided early in her life that she would become a doctor.  When she was twelve years old, Finkelstein’s father wrote to the Johns Hopkins Medical School for a catalogue that outlined how to get into medical school and she planned her life accordingly.  After finishing high school, she attended Johns Hopkins for both undergraduate and medical school.

In medical school, Finkelstein worked and lived at the first birth control clinic in Baltimore, officially called the Bureau for Contraceptive Advice because, as Finkelstein recalls, “birth control was a dirty word.”  Dr. Bessie Moses, a Baltimorean gynecologist, (you can read more about Dr. Moses here and here) opened this clinic on Broadway after she was denied space in the hospital.  Moses used the first floor as a birth control clinic and rented the upstairs to medical students.  While it was not illegal to open a privately funded birth control clinic at this time, Finkelstein recounted  the difficulties that early gynecologist like herself and Dr. Moses faced.  The Comstock law deemed birth control to be pornographic, thus making it illegal to import diaphragms (the only form of birth control at the time) from Europe.  Margaret Sanger, an early birth control activist and nurse, smuggled the diaphragms into the United States and distributed them to Moses.  Further, the only way a woman could go to the clinic was if she was referred by her physicians.  Women, however, were only referred if they had a heart, lung, or kidney disease.

Finkelstein also discussed the difficulties female doctors experienced in the early twentieth century.  Not only was Finkelstein the only Jewish woman at Johns Hopkins Medical School, she was also the only woman from her undergraduate class to pursue medicine.  As a doctor, she found that her opinion was not respected by her male colleagues.  The male doctors, she described, were “belittling” and overall dismissive of her opinions and diagnoses.  Because of these attitudes, Finkelstein could only work with a small group of physicians.

Despite the many hardships Finkelstein faced, she worked in the largely male-dominated medical field as an obstetrician and gynecologist in order to help women.  The best way that I can conclude this post is with a short quotations from Dr. Ruth Finkelstein describing her basic philosophy.  “I’m a champion of the underdog. I’m a softy. My philosophy is to help people, I guess.”

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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