Posted on August 14th, 2014 by Rachel
There are due to be some amazing objects on display within our upcoming exhibit, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, one of which is the American flag Mendes made during his time in Egypt. The flag is an important part of our collection and has a great claim to fame, probably being the first American flag to be flown on the Nile. Though exciting that the flag will be on display throughout the duration of the exhibit, it was essential to undertake some conservation to ensure no damage comes to the flag.
Last week we had a visit from Michele Pagan, the textile conservator who is working on the flag. She has already done some great work, adding a new backing to the flag that is much lighter that what had been used previously. This layer will also act as a support to the fraying edges and will have a section sewn in to make display of the flag easier. Michele has also added a layer of red silk organza behind the red strips of the flag, giving back some of the color to the flag, without doing anything that could be potentially damaging.
Marvin Pinkert, Deborah Cardin and Michele Pagan with Mendes’ flag
At present the strongest area of the flag is the canton, the blue square, the fabric is in good condition and has lost little of the original color. In contrast the stars are starting to deteriorate, not surprising as they are only made with paper and attached with an adhesive. The stars are receiving some careful treatment from the conservator, a fine layer of silk organza is being sewn over the top of the stars, keeping them visible but offering a little extra support.. This approach is the simplest of the three options presented, but it is also the one which is least likely to prove problematic in the future.
One of the surprising things to hear from Michele was that this is possibly the most fragile flag on which she has ever worked, given that she worked on THE Star Spangled Banner, this is quite a statement! There are a number of reasons for this all of which relate to the conditions in which it was made. Mendes certainly didn’t plan to be making this flag prior to leaving America, it seems whilst travelling in Egypt his patriotism inspired him to create the flag. This means that unlike most flags of the time made of wool, Mendes had to make the most of what he had and so his flag is made of cotton.
The difference in the ways in which the materials have deteriorated comes from the quality of the cotton, the blue is of a higher thread count and was dyed prior to weaving helping it to retain its color. In contrast the red and white are of a lower thread count and it is probable that the dye was applied to the red after weaving resulting in its loss of color. We did wonder if perhaps Mendes had dyed the fabric himself, but based on this letter it seems not, dated May 3rd, 1832:
“10th day … Manfalout containing about 400 inhabitants – bazaars – apricots, cucumbers, apples (small) – purchased red, white and blue cotton to make a flag – returned on board and cut it out, my servant making it”
Packing the flag safely away again, ready for more conservation work.
The flag is a stunning piece so make sure you come and see the great work that has been done on the flag in The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, opening September 14th 2014.
A blog post by Program Manager Trillion Attwood.
Posted on July 23rd, 2014 by Rachel
My husband and kids were having a wonderful time on their first day of vacation in San Francisco. They had visited the Japanese Tea Garden, hung out with an old friend of my husband’s and dined on dumplings in Chinatown. And then my husband, Jonathan, called with a crisis. “We forgot to pack Flat Mendes” he announced sadly.
For those of you unfamiliar, Flat Mendes is a paper doll cutout of one of Maryland’s most accomplished Jew and the subject of an upcoming exhibition, The A-mazing Mendes Cohen (opening September 14). Because the real life Mendes spent three years as an intrepid traveler throughout Europe and the Middle East, we have created a virtual Mendes so that he can continue his travels in the 21st century visiting places he may have visited more than 150 years ago and places that we are sure he would have loved to had he had the chance. For the Cardin-Willis Family, this meant bringing Flat Mendes with us to California and photographing him in every iconic spot we could find.
But first, we had to overcome this crisis. My husband and children flew out to San Francisco while the laminated version of Mendes was in Baltimore. Fortunately, I knew how to resolve this problem and directed Jonathan to a downloadable version of Flat Mendes on the JMM website. (You can do this too, go to http://jewishmuseummd.org/2014/06/flat-mendes/). Because the hotel did not have a color printer, my ever resourceful husband stopped at CVS, bought some crayons and the girls had fun coloring him in.
Jonathan and Mendes
Then the fun really began. Mendes fit in quite a bit in his one-week jaunt through California.
First stop, Alcatraz, the famed prison off the coast of San Francisco. Here he excitedly holds his own ticket.
Behind Bars – While the real life Mendes did have a brush with the law when he was fined for violating Virginia law by selling out of state lottery tickets there, thankfully, he never actually did time in prison.
Mendes enjoyed his trip up hilly San Francisco streets traveling by cable car.
Mendes even made some new friends!
With the Willis girls as his guide, Mendes got in some exercise biking over the Golden Gate Bridge. We have records of Mendes traveling by boat, train and horse but this mode of transport was surely a first for him.
What better way to refresh after a long and arduous bike ride then with a stop at San Francisco’s beloved Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory. Mendes proved to be quite the San Francisco fan and even picked up a souvenir baseball hat.
On the way down the coast, Mendes stopped to admire the beauty of California’s Redwood trees.
I met Jonathan, Madeline and Julia in Pismo Beach, CA, along California’s central coast where we had a blast taking surfing lessons. Mendes had to get in the action too. I think he may have even started a new surfing trend. The next day we saw many surfing dudes wearing turbans!
Mendes’s final adventure was kayaking in Morro Bay where he enjoyed viewing sea lions and otters.
Mendes is now home in Baltimore recuperating from jet lag. But he will soon be ready for new adventures and we can’t wait to see where else he goes!
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click HERE.
Posted on June 30th, 2014 by Rachel
Hi! My name is Arielle and I’m working at the Jewish Museum of Maryland this summer as an Education and Programming intern. After two weeks on the job, I can honestly say that I’ve learned way more than I can write. From observing tours, to working with visitors, to learning how to use Past Perfect, to attending meetings, to planning exhibits, this job has been quite a ride. In addition, its also been a lot of fun! I love the work that I’m doing at the museum. Plus, the people that I’m working with make it even more fun and rewarding. The community of staff and volunteers at the museum has been incredibly welcoming. They are so phenomenal at what they do and they are great teachers when it comes to learning how a museum works.
“Intern Wrangler” and Senior Collections Manager Jobi taught all the interns how to handle collections items. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with this artifact – an eye glass case used by Optometrists back in the day – and prepare it for display.
On the job I’ve gotten to play a part in so many awesome upcoming things that will be taking place at the museum both this summer and this fall. After sitting in on several meetings regarding the Electrified Pickle exhibit and helping put together the set of collections items that will be on display, I can honestly say that the exhibit which will be opening on July 13 is going to be amazing! Among other themes, the exhibit deals with the Jewish relationship with technology and how it’s progressed over the years. The topic is very engaging and the collections items we’ve gathered to show on display are fascinating. The exhibit should be very educational and I know we have several exciting programs coming up that will be going along with the exhibit!
As an intern I never expected to have such an important say in the planning of an exhibit, but the JMM is unique because I think it really trusts its interns and treats us like members of the staff. From this trust and responsibility, I have loved stepping up to the plate and learning by doing, instead of learning by watching. I have gained so much by attending these exhibition planning meetings and researching artifacts. I can’t wait to help build the exhibit over the next two weeks and watch its success when it opens.
Looking at photographs on the computer program Past Perfect, trying to find the perfect photo to display in the “Electrified Pickle” exhibit
In addition to helping plan the “Electrified Pickle”, I have also been given the opportunity to work on projects regarding the upcoming exhibit “The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen” which opens on September 14, and the chance to help organize the museum’s upcoming Holocaust Summer Teacher’s Institute. It has been a very fun and rewarding process doing both of these things and I can’t wait for the rest of the summer to see how much more I learn!
So, that all being said, I hope you stop by the museum this upcoming summer to check out the “Electrified Pickle” and come back again in the fall to see “The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen.” I promise you won’t be disappointed! They should be both “Electrifying” and “Ahhh-mazing!” Hehe, get it?
So many Mendes, So little time! Be sure to come back in the fall to meet The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen yourself!
You can even download your OWN Flat Mendes here or pick one up at the front desk next time you visit the Museum!
The Jewish Museum of Maryland is an amazing place and so far I couldn’t be happier spending my summer working as an intern here.
A blog post by Education and Programming Intern Arrielle Kaden. To read more posts by and about JMM interns, click here.