Digging into the excavations of the past

Posted on July 12th, 2016 by

Being of an archaeological background, I’ve been itching to work with the JMM’s archaeological collections since I got here. I finally got my chance; for the last few weeks I was working on writing a draft of a finding aid for the collections. This aid will help researchers who wish to study the archaeological projects that have taken place at the Lloyd Street Synagogue. The project started as any good project does, by researching, looking through the Museum’s records and making note of all the materials relating to archaeology the Museum has. I found that there are four recorded and variously documented dig seasons that took place in the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue between 2000 and 2010. The purpose of the LSS digs was to date and preserve key features in the basement, particularly the mikvehs and the matzoh oven. The first season was a Phase I study, meaning it was mostly a surface study, with minimal excavations. The other three seasons where Phase II studies, meaning there was more involved excavations, resulting in more material from those seasons. Feeling fairly familiar with the written materials and what years the excavations had taken place I was able to look at the artifact collections and familiarize myself with how they are cataloged in the Museum’s catalog system.

Pot sherd from the Lloyd Street Synagogue, LSS 1341.117.004

Pot sherd from the Lloyd Street Synagogue, LSS 1341.117.004

I cataloged some of the artifacts that had not been fully processed, giving me a good sense of the general condition and scope of the archaeological finds in the collection. I feel looking at archaeological artifacts offers some unique challenges that other historical objects don’t possess. Firstly, you are often times looking at an incomplete object, or fragments of objects. I had very little information to tell me what vessels pot sherds may have belonged to, and even less with glass sherds. Also the passage of time effects objects differently when they are buried for an extended period of time. Some materials like painted pottery, may benefit from this passage, as they are not exposed to light and the paint can’t fade; other materials don’t fare so well, like organic material (wood, most fabrics and paper) which often deteriorates completely, or metal which gets corroded and rusted easily by moisture and acidity in soils. There were several times when cataloging when I was not sure what I was looking at, especially when it came to metal objects.

A selection of Lloyd Street Synagogue oyster shells.

A selection of Lloyd Street Synagogue oyster shells.

One question that keeps bugging me is why there were oyster shells found in the Lloyd Street Synagogue (LSS). Shell fish is not kosher, so oyster shells seem a bit out of place in a synagogue. The shells also do not have any decoration on them. While we are close to the inner harbor, I don’t believe shells would be deposited here by natural means. The LSS did house a Christian congregation at one time, and was a reform synagogue for another chapter of its history. Perhaps the shells coincide with one of these periods of time, where the laws of kosher may not have been as heavily enforced.

Archaeological material is most valuable in its context. Based off where the artifacts, such as the oyster shells were found and what items were around it, possible dates of levels of the excavation and the events that took place at a site can be determined. In this manner the material culture creates and aids the telling of history. This being the case when forming the finding aid I made sure that artifacts could easily be associated with their field report and any field notes that could be found. After knowing what was in the collection I was able to compile the research I had done into a format that I hope will help future researchers easily find the materials they need.

06.06.2016 Interns (20)Blog post by Collections Intern Tamara Schlossenberg. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




JMM Joins City’s Celebration of American Design and Manufacture

Posted on April 6th, 2016 by

Last year, the organization MADE: In America designated the Carroll Mansion as its “All American House” for 2016.  From April 23 to July 7, 2016 the Carroll Mansion will be transformed into a showcase for some of the most innovative manufacturers and craftsmen in Baltimore and across the nation.  The city expanded the celebration by inviting partner organizations in what it’s calling the “Baltimore’s American Treasures” event.

The Carroll Mansion, 2016's "All-American House"

The Carroll Mansion, 2016’s “All-American House”

Located just a few blocks away from the Carroll Mansion in Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood, Historic Jonestown, is the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM).  To play our part in the celebration we’re hosting special events in recognition of the Lloyd Street Synagogue as a truly All American Synagogue.  Built in 1845, the Lloyd Street Synagogue is the third oldest Jewish house of worship still standing in the United States.  The building was designed by Robert Cary Long, Jr., a prominent church architect of the era.  Nearly every component of the original building and its 1860 renovation were the result of American craft and manufacture from the stenciling to the wooden pews to the stained glass Star of David.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The museum has spent the winter researching the material history of the building – which switched hands multiple times, serving first as a traditional German synagogue, then as a reformed temple, later it became a Lithuanian Catholic Church and finally a Russian Orthodox shul.  Each iteration brought new design elements into the building, holy arks and altars, mezuzot and an organ.  We’ve sifted through the records to identify some of the most interesting stories of how this site was designed and built to serve the needs of successive waves of immigrants.

The oldest extant photo of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection, JMM 1997.71.1

The oldest extant photo of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection, JMM 1997.71.1

Not every story has been easy to trace.  Where did the synagogues first Torah scroll come from?  What was the origin of the church’s bells and where did they go when the church was sold?  How did church chandeliers end up hanging from the ceiling of an Orthodox synagogue?  Questions like these led to the idea of our “Book, Bell and Candle Mystery Experience” (offered each Sunday from May 1 through July 7 at 3pm).  Our expert history sleuth will transport you into the shoes of a researcher on the trail of holy artifacts.  Made in America? Or lovingly imported?  Only one thing is certain – “it belongs in a museum” – the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Chandalier inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue

Chandelier inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue

We’ve set three Sundays aside for activities related to design work for the whole family.  On May 1 our focus is on crafts related to the building itself.  It includes a closer look at the stained glass windows and the art behind them.  On May 29, our “Welcome to Jonestown” free family day will feature crafts related to music in the synagogue.  Finally, on June 26, we will offer demonstrations of specialized skills required to manufacture the artifacts of the synagogue – from a sofer  (scribe) illustrating Hebrew calligraphy to a blacksmith making fencework.

Leaded glass window. East wall. Over ark. Lloyd Street Synagogue- Baltimore. restored 1964. IA 1024.

Leaded glass window. East wall. Over ark. Lloyd Street Synagogue- Baltimore. restored 1964. IA 1024.

Come see how the Lloyd Street Synagogue and its congregations fit into the fabric of America’s material culture.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Once Upon a Time…02.10.2012

Posted on September 11th, 2012 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. Click here to see the most recent photo on their website. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contactJobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or jzink@jewishmuseummd.org.

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  February 10, 2012

PastPerfect Accession #:  1988.142.095

Status:  Partially Identified (Left to Right):  Rabbi Herman Naftali Neuberger, Velvel Silverberg or Rabbi Joseph Shechterer or Hyman Schwartz, Tobias Miller, Rabbi Eliezer Rabinowitz

 

Special Thanks To: Avery Aisenstark, Bracha Goetz, Jerome Sefret, Ben Bernstein, Morton Esterson, Irvin Stern, Eve Rosenfeld, Joshua Ambush, Yakov Neuberger  18

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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