It’s interesting to me; is it interesting to you?

Posted on July 9th, 2015 by

What do people find interesting? This is what I thought about as I scrolled through the 50 page exhibit script, looking for the best items.  Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, opening in Spring 2016, will be a traveling exhibit. This means that it will start here at its “home institution” and then it will travel to other museums for display. But first, other museums need to agree to host the exhibit, and to do this they will look at a marketing package which includes a list of its best objects, photos, and documents. This list is what I worked on.

Many questions popped up as I determined which items were the “best”. Would people other than me find this interesting? Does it sort of summarize the section of the exhibit that it is in? And is it instantly visually interesting, or would someone need to know the context of the item to understand it? A good number of items in the exhibit will also be loans from other institutions, so I had to make sure we were actually on track for a successful loan before I added it to my “best objects” list.

So what did I choose? 36 objects, items, and documents out of the 400 some items in the exhibit. The items work together to capture the big idea of the exhibit as well as being just plain interesting! The items described below are three of my personal favorites.

Ma’aseh Tuviyya, Tobias Cohen, 1708, Germany National Library of Medicine

Ma’aseh Tuviyya, Tobias Cohen, 1708, Germany
National Library of Medicine

This image is from an early 18th century book about medical practices. Written in Hebrew, and published in Germany, it provides a fascinating look into how medicine and the human body were viewed in the past. This specific image is a metaphor between the human body and a house. Intricately detailed, one can see the different rooms of the house on the right that symbolize parts of the body.

JMM 1991.35.24

JMM 1991.35.24

This is quite possibly the strangest piece in the exhibit, a ring made with vulcanized rubber and a porcelain molar. It was made by Edmund Kahn for a marriage proposal to Gertrude Fried in 1904. Being a student in dental school, he could not afford a ring. He created this interesting thing from things he found in the lab, and it is without a doubt very strange. But it shows more than just a man’s craft skills, it gives a view into life into what dental school was like for students.

JMM 1995.151.15

JMM 1995.151.15

When Sinai Hospital in Baltimore was built, it was primarily a Jewish institution. However, it was obvious that it would need to cater to other cultures in order to survive. So these foreign language phrase cards were made to help with this diversity. The hospital staff could use these phrase cards to communicate with non-English speaking patients, resulting in a hospital that was truly for “everybody”.

These three items stood out to me among the 400 some items in the upcoming exhibit. They are visually interesting and vital to the understanding of the exhibit. Hopefully other institutions will see this too and want to host the exhibit, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America.

SophiaA blog post by Exhibitions Intern Sophia Brocenos. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Hutzler family porcelain dishes, circa 1878

Posted on November 17th, 2014 by

Today we have two pieces from a larger set of porcelain dinnerware, owned by the Hutzler family of Baltimore.

Sauce boat (JMM 1995.137.001) and dessert plate (JMM 1993.161.001), circa 1878.

Sauce boat (JMM 1995.137.001) and dessert plate (JMM 1993.161.001), circa 1878.

We have a sauce boat, with molded (attached) underplate, 9 inches long; and a dessert plate, 8.5 inches in diameter.  The decoration manages to be both elaborate and – at least compared to some other examples of late 19th century French porcelain – fairly restrained: the pink is bright and the morning glories are plentiful, but the gilding is kept to a minimum, and the entwined initials (off to the side on the plate, and on one end of the boat) are relatively subtle.  Both pieces are marked on the reverse with the cartouche of Adolphe Hache & Pepin LeHalleur of Vierzon and Paris, France. Hache & LeHalleur, a porcelain decorating firm, exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and won a Gold Medal at the 1878 Paris Exposition. (That 1878 award was proudly added to the maker’s mark, as you can see from the photo below.)

The reverse of the dessert plate: “1878 Méd.e D’or [Médaille D’or (Gold Medal)] Paris / Ad. Hache & Pepin LeHalleur / Vierzon [and] Paris”

The reverse of the dessert plate: “1878 Méd.e D’or [Médaille D’or (Gold Medal)] Paris / Ad. Hache & Pepin LeHalleur / Vierzon [and] Paris”

The custom initials on each piece, an H flanked by a D and an E, stand for David and Ella Hutzler, the original owners of the full dinnerware set. In 1874, David Hutzler (1843-1915), one of the three brothers who founded Baltimore’s Hutzler Bros. high-end department store, married Ella Joline Gutman (1855-1942), daughter of Joel Gutman, who owned a neighboring high-end shop.

According to family stories, “Grandfather Hutzler” (David) commissioned the full dinnerware set “at the Paris Exposition.”  But which Paris Exposition? The maker’s mark dates from between 1878, when Hache & LeHalleur won their award, to 1889, when the firm’s name (and mark) changed.  That gives us the 1878 and 1889 options to choose from, and I lean toward the 1878 Paris World’s Fair or Exposition as the origin of our dinnerware set.  Something sold directly at the Exposition would not have that “We won an award!” mark on it already (unless the firm was very confident, I suppose), but it makes sense that porcelain custom-ordered at the fair, then manufactured afterward, would include mention of the maker’s just-awarded Gold Medal.

A close-up view of the decorations on each piece, including the elaborately entwined initials.

A close-up view of the decorations on each piece, including the elaborately entwined initials.

A side note on the color: Today, we tend to associate pink so closely with femininity and girlishness that it’s easy to apply those same attributes to antique pink… but we shouldn’t necessarily do so.  Not only was pink an entirely appropriate color for boys until the early 20th century, but this particular shade of “French pink,” introduced by Sevres in the mid-18th century, was a very popular ground color for china and porcelain. The Hutzlers showed good taste in acquiring a fashionable, expensive, and custom-made set, and no doubt they enjoyed serving family and friends from their French porcelain.

After Ella died in 1942, her children made an inventory of the family home on Eutaw Place in order to appropriately distribute their parents’ belongings. A “pink Limoges set of china” – almost certainly the set from which these pieces originated – was listed next to son Albert’s name; the set was likely divided up further and given to the younger generations as time passed.  Our dessert plate was donated by Albert’s daughter, Caroline Hutzler Bernstein; the gravy boat came to us from Patsy Perlman, one of David and Ella’s great-granddaughters through their daughter Cora.

Though we don’t have the full set (no pink-china dinner party vignettes for our museum, alas!) these two pieces help us illustrate a variety of stories, from Baltimore residents’ access to European fine goods, to a well-to-do couple’s use and display of said goods, to the way a family deals with a deceased parent’s estate.  When browsing my “blog post potential” list today the dessert plate caught my eye, thanks to its charming decorations; but when you look closer, there’s much more to it than just what’s on the surface.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE. To read even more posts about our collections click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




“Mazel” cufflinks, 1950s

Posted on October 13th, 2014 by

Thanks to our online database, much of our collections can be investigated from the comfort of your own home.  Hopefully, you’ve already read and tested our earlier posts on researching in the database (here are parts one, two, and three). But you may not have tried out the “random images” feature, which chooses an assortment of photos, artifacts, and archival records for your enjoyment. You don’t need a specific research query to spend some quality time with our stuff!

The “random” function proved useful this week, as I went looking for something to feature on the blog.  My eye was caught by this pair of silver-colored metal cufflinks, each with a bold Hebrew “Mazel” on the front (and, for good measure, “LUCK” in English on the back).

2010.62.1a-b

2010.62.1a-b

Maryland Governor Theodore R. McKeldin was the owner of these cufflinks.  McKeldin is an important figure in Maryland politics – he was Baltimore’s mayor in the 1940s and again in the 1960s, as well as serving two terms as governor from 1951 to 1959 – and he was a strong supporter of Baltimore’s diverse communities. To paraphrase an often-repeated story, McKeldin (an Episcopalian) was said to ‘carry a cross in one pocket and a yarmulke in the other.’  That line is sometimes used negatively, hinting he was too much of a people-pleaser, but it can also be taken as a sign of his willingness to engage and work with the Jewish community. Further evidence for this can be found in our museum, thanks in part to a small collection of personal tokens given to McKeldin by Jewish Marylanders over the years. These items were saved by McKeldin, and eventually donated to the JMM by his granddaughter Caroline Wayner.

2010.62.1 full set

2010.62.1 full set

These cufflinks, and the matching tie clip, were part of that donation. We don’t know who gave the set to McKeldin, but we do have a clue as to its origins: The pieces are in their original velvet box, marked “The Concord Men’s Shop, Kiamesha Lake N.Y.” The Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake was one of the largest resorts in the Catskills in the mid 20th century; evidently someone from Maryland was vacationing there, spotted these in one of the shops catering to resort visitors, and thought kindly enough of their Governor to make the purchase.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »