Jenny Goes to the “Vet”

Posted on August 29th, 2018 by

A blog post by JMM Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

As many of you know, here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland we pride ourselves on creating exhibits that are lively, innovative, and hands-on. So we make a point to build in different kinds of interactives – some as simple as a push of a button and others that take a little more active participation…like making an elephant disappear!

Any museum professional will tell you, hands-on interactives need to be prepared for lots of wear and tear. And even with the best of planning, sometimes you need to repair, replace, or re-think an interactive after it has been in use for a while.

In Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, we underestimated the strength of our visitors and had to repair our punching bag, replacing its mount with a heavy-duty chain.

In Voices of Lombard Street we regularly replace the fake food in the deli section of the exhibit. You can see our missing coleslaw and bun discoloration in these before-and-after photos!

And in Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, we were met with a challenge – Jenny, our disappearing elephant, was a little “under the weather” after performing her trick for so many adoring fans.

(You may have noticed this cuddly stand-in while Jenny was out of her box awaiting surgery.)

But don’t worry, JMM staff came to the rescue! Archivist Lorie Rombro and Visitor Services Manager Paige Woodhouse played doctor for the day and fixed Jenny right up (they even let me assist!). In preparation for “surgery,” they gathered a variety of potential repair supplies, from needle and thread to multiple brands of superglue. We weren’t sure exactly what material Jenny’s hide was made from and knew we might have to test a few different techniques.

As you can see here, Jenny’s trunk and tusks are worse-for-wear. In addition to repairing the tears themselves, we needed to find a way to increase the support inside the trunk to help prevent future damage. In order to do that, we decided to fully remove the trunk before re-attachment.

A behind-the-scenes fun fact? We used a combination of hand-carved epifoam and the recycled underwire from a bra (yes, you read that right!) to create the needed support. The underwire was the perfect angle for Jenny’s trunk.

In the end the judicious application of gorilla glue (and some TLC) let us return Jenny to her magic box where she continues to delight and astonish our museum visitors!

Make sure to stop in, say hi to Jenny, and watch her perform her miraculous disappearance.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

The Treasures You Find in the Basement

Posted on July 25th, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

When you work in a museum, collection storage is often in the basement. Some people may feel basements can be uncomfortable or frightening, but I truly love basements. Most of the time I go down knowing what I am looking for and its right were its supposed to be and that’s wonderful, but I do enjoy the times when it becomes a bit more of an adventure. My son said maybe it would be more exciting if I walked into the archives and a movie announcer voice said, “Welcome to the Archives” and began playing the Indiana Jones theme music. That would be incredible, but even without the music I feel like I can be on a quest of discovery.

 A few weeks ago, I was searching a collection of 3×5 negatives, mostly from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The negatives were donated by the photographer, Nat Lipsitz in 1980.  A Baltimore photographer, Nat Lipsitz worked with the Associated for nearly 30 years, as well as Israel Bonds, the Jewish National Fund, Zionist organizations, and other Jewish and non-Jewish groups. I was looking for Associated Jewish Charities, Women’s Division, G-Day photographs, and I was side tracked by the word “Fashion Show”. Its hard not to look at photographs of a fashion show, especially ones from the 1950’s and 1960’s. What I found were wonderful photographs of the Israel Bonds Fashion Shows!

The first group were identified in the photographer’s notebook as, models at Hutzlers, modeling clothes for Israel Bonds 12/31/52.

The second group of photographs had a beautiful and very tall women in the center of the photo.. Since she was in all the photographs I felt she was the special guest and was interested in learning who she was.

After some research, I found who I was looking for on the cover of the programs for the 1966 Israel Bonds Fashion Show, Bess Meyerson. JMM 1988.218.25

In the January 5, 2015 Washington Post Obituary for Bess Meyerson, Adam Bernstein wrote:

“A raven-haired, hazel-eyed beauty who stood 5-foot-10, Ms. Myerson was a captivating figure from the moment she was named the first — and still only — Jewish Miss America. Born to immigrant Jews from Russia, she was raised in a Bronx housing project and embodied an up-from-poverty success story that made her an overnight sensation and possibly the best-known Miss America in the contest’s history.

For decades, she enjoyed something close to reverence among a generation of Jews who had lived through the Holocaust and found in her win a symbol of Jewish assimilation and acceptance in an otherwise hostile world.”

Ms. Meyerson would go on to be named the NYC commissioner of Consumer Affairs in 1969 and in 1980 name NYC commissioner of Cultural Affairs. She would have an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 1980 and loose in the Democratic primaries. She would also be charged with bribery and conspiracy charges in 1987. In all she had an incredibly interesting life and finding her photograph gave me a chance to learn more about her.

*As a footnote all the photographs are not identified – please email me if you know any of the women in the photographs!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

The Mount Pleasant Jewish Home for Consumptives – a Personal Connection

Posted on March 28th, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

In 1907 Jacob Epstein gave $35,000 to the Federated Jewish Charities for a tuberculosis hospital and another $500 annually toward supporting the institution. Seventy-two acres were purchased off Westminster Pike, north of Reisterstown and the Jewish Home for Consumptives, also known as Mount Pleasant was opened in 1908.

I knew very little about Mount Pleasant prior to working here at the Museum, but what I did know was through my own family history. When WWII began my grandfather, who had recently married my grandmother, went to register for the Navy. At the physical it was discovered that he had tuberculosis, although he had no symptoms. My grandfather proceeded to spend the next year at Mount Pleasant. He always believed that he had contracted tuberculosis from living at a boarding house in Baltimore when he first arrived from New York, but would never know the true cause.

I was excited to find a large portion of the 1926-1932 Associated scrapbook dedicated to the history of Mount Pleasant.

Inside the scrapbook was an incredible amount of information on the sanitorium, not just the invitations to events – which I always love to see (especially the menus),

but also copies of the forms for admission including a clothing list and directions. 

One of the most interesting finds was a small booklet titled, “Your Cure and your Sanatorium” from 1931. JMM 2017.68.3.38

It begins with, “By coming to the Sanatorium, you have taken an important step towards recovery. Everything about this sanatorium has been planned for the sole purpose of helping you win your battle. Rest, good food and fresh air are the three most essential elements of treatment. Occasionally, medicines for the control of certain symtoms and special forms of treatment may be prescribed. Cheerfulness and determination to get well, you must supply. This will not be difficult in the company of others who are striving, like yourself, to regain health. Courage is contagious.” The booklet goes on to explain what tuberculosis is, why rest is the most imprtant step in healing, and the times of day that patients must rest, eat, and recieve treatments, a daily schedule for patients, as well as the critera for being declared well enough to return home.

Its easy to understand the ideas behind the sanitorium, hoping to create a place where people could heal and regain their strength, allowing them to return to normal life. But was the sanitorium successful?

The 1917 annual report included not only statistics for the Home, but a Superintendent’s Report as well.

In it, the superintendent, Jacob Cohen, M.D, wrote “ we aim to do more than teach the patient how to take care of himself. As has been said in former reports, it is the settled purpose of the Medical Board not to discharge patients who may be a menance to the community, but to keep them indefinitely if thought desirable, and forever if necessary. You probably know that most of our patients have either moderate or far advanced lesions; very few of our admissions are incipient cases. The cause of this is probably two-fold, occasional failures on the physcian’s part to recoginize the disease in its incipiency, but much more so, I think, the unwillingness of the average Jewish workingman to admit that he needs medical attention until the disease has made extensive inroads.” The statistics show that a majority of the people in the hospital that year where tailors or housewives and when looking at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum records many children where placed in the orphanage because one parent had either died or was being treated for tuberculosis.

Happily, my grandfather was cured, though he never spoke of his time there. But because of Mount Pleasant, he was able to come home and become a father and the most wonderful grandfather anyone could ask for.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

« Previous PageNext Page »