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Having a Blast at the Air and Space Museum in Virginia

Posted on January 23rd, 2020 by

Blog post by Program Assistant Laura Grant. To read more posts from Laura, click here.

When I lived in Washington, DC, I visited the Smithsonian Museums quite frequently, including the National Air and Space Museum. I even volunteered for the “Flights of Fancy” Story Time program for a brief period. However, it took moving to Baltimore for me to visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the companion museum to the one on the Mall located in Chantilly, VA.

The Udvar-Hazy Center is unlike other museums I have visited. The artifacts, which include airplanes, helicopters, and a space shuttle are much larger than typical museum objects. They are also displayed in a huge, open hangar. The Center has a very distinctive look and feel that adds to the experience.

Me in front of the “Dash 80”

There are about 170 airplanes displayed in the Center. This number includes both commercial and military aircraft. Some of the highlights of the visit for me included the “Dash 80,” the precursor to America’s first commercial jet, the “Enola Gay,” which dropped the first atomic bomb during World War II, and the Concorde which flew people across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound. I also enjoyed the collection of small aircraft that were built by individuals, sometimes even in their own backyards.

The “Enola Gay”

My favorite object may have been stratospheric suit worn by Alan Eustace when he parachuted down to Earth from the stratosphere. With his flight, he set the record for the highest altitude free fall jump.

The other main section of the Center focuses on space exploration. The highlight of this area is the Space Shuttle Discovery, the oldest and most accomplished space orbiter. The scale of the Discovery is awe-inspiring.

I also found the innovativeness of the Apollo 11 flotation bag used to turn the spacecraft right around after it landed in the ocean impressive.

The last aspect of the Center that I visited was the Observation Tower which provides a panoramic view of Dulles airport and the nearby region. I have always loved watching planes take off and land and was glad I had the opportunity to experience that here.

Visiting the Udvar-Hazy Center made me excited for JMM’s next exhibition, Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit. While there won’t be any spacecraft on display, the exhibit will feature many unique objects including rare, ancient texts about astronomy and Judaica taken into space by the first male Jewish-American astronaut, Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman. You won’t want to miss it!

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Getting Crafty with Recycled Materials

Posted on December 26th, 2019 by

Blog post by Program Assistant Laura Grant. To read more posts from Laura, click here.

One of the unique elements of Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling is that in order to fit the theme of the exhibit our family days have involved crafts made from recycled materials. Planning for these events has involved creativity and lots of assistance from staff and volunteers.

Months in advance, we put out a call to collect recycled materials for Downtown Dollar Day and Mitzvah Day. The call was swiftly answered and pretty soon we had too many toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, newspaper, and tin cans to fit in the office. After we had collected enough materials, we had to prep them to be ready for the events. Again, this was a collective effort as staff and volunteers cut cardboard, painted newspaper, and trimmed t-shirts into strips. Finally, we were ready to share our recycled crafts and activities with the public.

Our materials staging area.

Cutting t-shirts in prep for Mitzvah Day.

On December 8th for Downtown Dollar Day, we hosted a Greener Hanukkah event. We offered four stations each featuring a Hanukkah-themed craft made with recycled materials. At one table, participants made garland by folding newspaper into the shape of a dreidel or Star of David. Guests also made cards out of cereal boxes and decorated them to create a stained-glass effect. Two particularly popular options were splatter paint dreidel—creating a top from a piece of cardboard, applying paint, and then spinning it to create a splattered design and crayon candles—making colorful candles for a menorah by melting wax and old crayons.

Splatter paint dreidels

Making cards and candles

Additionally, we welcomed Art with a Heart to host two menorah-making workshops. Their team brought in a treasure trove of recycled materials, including puzzle pieces, Scrabble letters, and bottle caps. Everyone had a great time creating unique and impressive menorahs.

Workshop participants choosing materials for their menorahs.

For Mitzvah Day this year, we made donations out of recycled materials. Volunteers braided old t-shirts and denim into dog toys for animals at Maryland SPCA and filled toilet paper rolls with newspaper and kibble for a surprise treat for dogs at the Baltimore Humane Society. Lastly, participants decorated tin cans to look like owls to accompany meals delivered by Meals of Wheels.

Finished tin can owl ready for Meals on Wheels.

As a result of these events, I have learned how to think creatively while still trying to promote sustainability.

Sample projects on my desk in prep for programs.

Thank you to all the staff and volunteers who donated items or helped prep materials. We could not have done it without you.

We will offer two additional family programs related to Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling. On January 26th, join JMM for From Trash to Treasure, a morning of building, tinkering, and creating projects with recycled materials. Then on April 19th, participate in a variety of activities and expert-led workshops in honor of Earth Day. Hope to see you there.

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Learning at JMM: Scrap Public Programs Recap

Posted on November 22nd, 2019 by

Blog post by Program Assistant Laura Grant. To read more posts from Laura, click here.

It is hard to believe that Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling has been up for almost a month. In that time, JMM has offered three wonderful public programs that each provided a different perspective on the scrap industry.

On October 27th, we welcomed Zachary Paul Levine, curator of Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, to provide an overview of the exhibition. He explained how the exhibition’s structure mirrors that of a scrap yard. While it may feel overwhelming walking through the space, everything is carefully organized just like in a scrap yard. Levine gave the audience an introduction to the way scrap is processed and to the individuals who complete the hard work. Levine also reminded us that we all have a relationship to the scrap industry whether we realize it or not. (If you missed this talk – great news! Zachary will be doing a repeat on Sunday, January 19th.)

Zach Levine introducing the exhibit.

Next, we hosted Dr. Jonathan Pollack to speak about Jewish immigrants in the scrap industry. Dr. Pollack noted that at the turn of the 20th century, about 80 to 90 percent of scrap dealers were Jewish. He explored several reasons Jews entered the scrap industry and offered the insight that scrap recycling was like peddling in reverse. Instead of selling goods, Jewish immigrants picked up people’s scrapped goods. Pollack infused his lecture with a touch of humor by discussing Ragman, a Jewish superhero from DC Comics who derives his powers from a suit of rags.

Jonathan Pollack discussing the origins of Ragman.

Most recently, journalist and author Adam Minter joined us to speak about his role covering the scrap industry abroad and his personal connection to the business. Minter grew up in a scrap family in Minneapolis. Although he did not join the business, he joked that he could never escape it. Beginning in the early 2000s, Minter travelled across the world reporting on scrap recycling in emergent economies in places like China, Nigeria, and Ghana. I found it particularly interesting when Minter pointed out the connection between early scrap dealers in the United States and those in other countries today. He noted that both groups have a shared identity as outsiders. Just as Jewish immigrants turned to the industry out of necessity and then made livelihoods out of it, immigrants in emerging economies today join the industry because it is one of the only jobs available to them, but then they grow to create their own businesses. Minter also read a section from his new book Secondhand: Travels of a Global Scrap Man.

One of my favorite photos from his talk was this one of Adam Minter’s grandmother in the yard with two of the workers. According to Minter, despite the size difference, they were intimidated by her!

I have enjoyed learning about this new topic through our public programs and hearing from individuals about their own connections to the scrap industry.

Marvin’s father, Albert Pinkert, beside a scrapped motor at his yard in Chicago.

While you will have to wait a little while for the next Scrap lecture, you will be rewarded for your patience. On January 12th, Marvin Pinkert, JMM Executive Director, will speak about his personal connection to the scrap industry. Come learn how both sides of his family are connected to scrap and why so many members of his generation decided not to join the business. Tickets are available here.

You can always check out our full line up of public programs here on our website or on our Facebook page!


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