Looking to History for the Answers: Urban Decay

Posted on July 27th, 2016 by

The infrastructure of a city often defines its residents and eventually its reputation. There are interesting exceptions to this, Baltimore being a prime example. Baltimore City is a city where everything changes every two blocks, sections of the city appear dilapidated row houses next to abandoned structures sometimes half demolished. These areas in Baltimore appear as if time has left the city behind, with the exception of the bright blue light emitted from the video camera installed atop the intersection. A short drive and a mile later expensive refurbished housing or preserved massive brownstone homes can be seen, people abuzz in green fairly cared for spaces with a notable lack of surveillance cameras, liquor stores and wandering homeless. Return west and there are entire blocks of homes that have been abandoned for years right next to an occupied home.

Yet Baltimore parades a different image of itself, a city boasting massive hospitals blazing a forefront in the medical world, Johns Hopkins, Medstar, Mercy and others. A city with a tourist friendly harbor with new businesses, local manufacturing and big names. Expensive waterfront property, large boats. What used to be immigrant neighborhoods and docks worked by various generations turned into areas desired by a new resurgent interest in younger generations of working class families seeking urban lifestyles. A twist as the children of families who left the city years ago through generations of rapid white flight return only to establish their own enclaves effectively gentrifying areas.

While this seems harmless initially the situation’s consequences are clear in a brief visit to West Baltimore. As the jobs become more exclusive and move elsewhere or are filled by new roles the already poor and disparaged neighborhoods further decline in essential areas. Public education, housing and maintenance, businesses that remain are small and locally owned as larger business move to the fringes of the city. As these poorer areas are alienated furthering an ‘Us vs Them’ attitude which broods and the melting pot that Baltimore stood as for generations quickly homogenizes.

Examples of urban decay are evident all over Baltimore, entire blocks of abandoned homes and structures.

Examples of urban decay are evident all over Baltimore, entire blocks of abandoned homes and structures.

Looking around I realize how many cues can be taken from history to help address this very real; problem. Recently I visited DC where we visited the National Library of Congress. They had an exhibit on the life of Jacob Riis, an American immigrant living in New York city. He noticed the squalor conditions the poor and immigrant families endured in the city encouraging him to document their struggles and improve the living conditions. A bold man who made friends that ascended to high places such as Theodore Roosevelt. I saw a lot of similarities between the disintegration of infrastructure and the consequences it had on New York at Jacob Riis’s time and the aging infrastructure of certain areas in Baltimore now. Water pipes in Baltimore are old, the harbor all though transformed is still suffering from pollution and years of neglect. The New York of Jacob Riis’s time was still experiencing a massive influx of immigrants, this is where the problem differs. Baltimore is experiencing an increase in people moving into the city in exclusive areas such as Canton, Harbor East and North Baltimore. The population enduring the declining living conditions has been here for generations.

A picture taken by Jacob Riis depicting the difficult living conditions as families living in New York at his time, multiple people often occupied a single room.

A picture taken by Jacob Riis depicting the difficult living conditions as families living in New York at his time, multiple people often occupied a single room.

As Baltimore moves to make a name for itself hopefully the gap stops widening as people invest more in the city as a whole rather than some exclusive areas. If history has shown us anything all it takes is one determined person willing to get their hands dirty and make connections. Jacob Riis’s legacy has taught us many things and his observations motivate decisions made today. A small example being his decisions to create public play areas for children to keep them out of trouble, this is especially relevant in Baltimore as public figures push for more of these communally accessible spaces for the youth.

A peaceful protest of local Baltimore citizens after the death of Freddie Gray and the ensuing riots. A prime example of how concerned citizens can come together to address the problems the city faces today.

A peaceful protest of local Baltimore citizens after the death of Freddie Gray and the ensuing riots. A prime example of how concerned citizens can come together to address the problems the city faces today.

 CadeBlog post by Digital Projects Intern O. Cade Simon. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.

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The People’s Library

Posted on July 25th, 2016 by

Earlier this month the JMM interns took a field trip to the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Since all of us are passionate about history in some respect, we greatly appreciated the opportunity to tour such a historic building.

After arriving we were given a brief tour of the museum where we saw several truly amazing exhibits. Starting with a recreation of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library we saw presentations on New York, Jewish texts and the Library itself. Our guide took us to an office where we examined several of the oldest Jewish books that are known.

The Library of Congress is full of amazing architecture.

The Library of Congress is full of amazing architecture.

As I’m preparing to begin student teaching in history classes this Fall, I was extremely excited to visit the Library. It’s filled with American history as well as sections on every topic imaginable. Thomas Jefferson, a president who’s leadership I particularly enjoy studying, was fascinating and I am extremely impressed with the Library’s work on it. We learned that Jefferson not only kept a vast collection of books, he kept an extremely detailed record of all his texts. For every book he obtained he also included it’s price, who sold it and his thoughts on it. Our guide also explained to us that Jefferson wanted the Library to belong to the American people. His reasoning behind this was simple; he wanted an informed and knowledgeable American population.

After leaving the Library, the interns spent the rest of the afternoon in DC. We got lunch, walked around the other museums and saw a few vendors outside before the rain set in. I think opportunities like this are something special that comes with the internship. I have had several other internships in college, but none took us to somewhere as incredible as the Library of Congress. Special thanks to the museum staff and Rachel Kassman for organizing the trip for us.

I highly recommend the Library to anyone who is interested in History! Thanks for a great visit!

Ben SnyderBlog post by Education & Programs Intern Ben Snyder. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.

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Copyright Basics: A Workshop

Posted on April 24th, 2013 by

JobiA blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

Friday morning, fresh from her hellacious 6 hour train trip to New York, Karen and I headed into DC for a day-long workshop about copyright basics. Trust me, if you work in a museum and you want to mount an exhibition (or post something on your blog!) you’ll want to know the basics of copyright. And what better place to learn about copyright than the Library of Congress

Karen Falk and Tessa Sobol of the Textile Museum outside the Library of Congress.

Karen Falk and Tessa Sobol of the Textile Museum outside the Library of Congress.

Before getting down to the nuts and bolts of copyright, we divided into two groups and took a tour of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Our tour guide, John, was very knowledgeable and highly entertaining. Karen was particularly impressed with the mosaic of Minerva: her feet seem to point directly toward you no matter where you stand to see her. (I was also obsessing with feet as my new shoes were giving me blisters.)

I highly recommend a free public tour of the Library of Congress

I highly recommend a free public tour of the Library of Congress

John Saint Amour was also our first presenter for the workshop. He gave us an overview of the copyright office and the basics of copyright. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to:

* Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords

* Prepare derivative works based upon the works

* Distribute copies of the work to the public nu sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending.

* Perform the work publically, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio-visual works.

* Display the works publically

* Perform the work publically

Workshop participants from Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York introduce themselves.

Workshop participants from Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York introduce themselves.

One of the most important facts that we learned (or were reminded of), was that just because the museum owns a painting, manuscript or photograph doesn’t mean that the museum owns copyright to the item. Further, the donor who signed the Deed of Gift might not own copyright to the item, even if it has been in the family’s possession for many years, as copyright is generally retained by the creator. This gave us something to mull over while we enjoyed our lunch in the LOC cafeteria.

Copyright protection is addressed in the Constitution of the United States.

Elizabeth Alberding, RC-MAAM Chair and Registrar at the Kelly Collection, took a quick run down to the Graphic Art Galleries to see the exhibition of Gibson Girl drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, as drawings from the Kelly Collection where she is registrar were on display.

This gorgeous exhibition will be on view through August 17, 2013.

This gorgeous exhibition will be on view through August 17, 2013.

The drawings in the exhibition reminded me of Harrison Fisher’s “Baltimore Girl” advertising poster for Hutzler’s department store in the JMM collection. 1989.207.004

The drawings in the exhibition reminded me of Harrison Fisher’s “Baltimore Girl” advertising poster for Hutzler’s department store in the JMM collection. 1989.207.004

Our first afternoon session, “Is Your Coffee table Copyrighted,” with Larisa Pastuchiv was pretty lively as we discussed visual arts and copyrights. If the artistic quality of your coffee table can be separated from its functionality and exist as an independent work of art, then the artistic component can be copyrighted!  Mike Burke talked about the Digitization and Preservation projects at the LOC. Working backwards in time from 1977 the LOC is digitizing the 40 million copyright records on file.  Following current archival standards, they are making three copies of each hi-res scan and storing backups in several offsite facilities. We rounded out the afternoon with a talk about Fair Use and Public Domain with Chris Weston. Under current copyright law, copyright protection is valid for the life of the author/artist plus 70 years and anything published before 1923 is in the public domain. Of course the examples Chris cited indicate that “fair use” is subject to interpretation.

table 1 The carving and inlay are copyrightable, but the tables themselves are not.

table 2

This day-long workshop was presented by MAAM –the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums– as part of their Cornerstones Program. At $40 for members/$60 for non-members Cornerstones are a great bang for your buck! Check out the next Cornerstones Program – Understanding the Financials!

UNDERSTANDING THE FINANCIALS
MAY 7 at the Liberty Science Center
9:30 AM – 3:00 PM

• Reading Financial Statements
• Developing Budgets
• Understanding the 990 Forms
• Case Study: Relocating the Shuttle Enterprise, from a Financial View

DOWNLOAD THE REGISTRATION FORM

A one-day program focused on valuable financial knowledge for museum executives presented by experienced colleagues and industry professionals.

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